BOSTON — In the Bernard Field Lecture at CROI, Julie M. Overbaugh, PhD, member of the human biology and public health sciences division and Endowed Chair for Graduate Education at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, discussed one of the earliest trials ever to address the risk for HIV transmission through breast milk and the numerous “downstream studies” that resulted from it. These studies showed what she called “the power of collaboration to drive science.”
The Nairobi breast-feeding clinical trial ran from 1992 to 1998 and included 425 women and infants who were followed from pregnancy through 2 years of life. The trial demonstrated that breast-feeding doubles the risk for infant infection and that the majority of transmission occurs in the first 6 weeks after birth, Overbaugh explained.
This was one of the primary goals of the trial, but there have been other, unexpected findings in studies that used data and samples from the Nairobi trial. These findings include the discovery that infants develop neutralizing antibody responses more commonly and rapidly than adults do, which suggests they may provide a roadmap for antibody-based HIV vaccine approaches, Overbaugh said.
She said one HIV envelope protein derived from the Nairobi trial, BG505, has helped advance vaccine research in interdisciplinary and international collaborations.
“The trial revealed risk and correlates of breast milk transmission, as was its original intent,” Overbaugh said. “The data and samples from that trial were instrumental in revealing unique aspects of the infant immune response. And it’s been very exciting to see that the field has landed on one virus from this trial. It was unexpected certainly [when the trial was designed] that this would be an outcome and that this BG505 trimer is advancing vaccine research at a rapid pace.” – by Gerard Gallagher
Overbaugh J. Abstract 10. Presented at: Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections; March 4-7, 2018; Boston.