Cows Might Be The Future For HIV Vaccines

Until recently, no one has identified an immunogen capable of eliciting broadly neutralizing antibodies (Bnabs) for HIV vaccines in either human or animal models. However, a 2017 National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) research initiative has immunized four cows with the soluble cleaved trimer BG505 SOSIP in an attempt to produce these Bnabs – and has succeeded.

Since antibodies in cows are approximately 4 to 5 times longer than typical human antibodies, the cows antibodies have a greater chance of penetrating the sugars surrounding the HIV virus and neutralizing it. There is not yet a clear path to achieving the same results in humans, but according to the director of vaccine research at the NIAIDJohn Mascola, MD, while the study “doesn’t tell us how to make a vaccine for HIV in human patients […] it does tell us how the virus evades the human immune response.”

How far have we come from HIV Vaccinations?

It has been a long road in the battle against HIV/AIDS since the epidemic began in the early 1980s. However, in 2013, the virus hit what was widely referred to as a tipping point when, for the first time, more people were newly being treated with antiretroviral drugs than became newly infected with HIV. Despite this milestone, there are still 35 million people estimated to be living with HIV today — 19 million who are estimated to be unaware of their HIV-positive status — and 2 million more people are being infected each year.


Sok, Devin, et al. Rapid elicitation of broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV by immunization in cows. Nature. Available at:

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