CAEV vs HIV: But what if it could, tho?

Listen, nobody thinks the guy who 'cured Charlie Sheen of HIV' cured Charlie Sheen of HIV.

Even Charlie Sheen.

... But what if he could, tho?

What would this super awesome therapy THE MAN doesnt want you to know about look like? How would it work?

That would be a fun and educational game to play!

Okay, to play this game you first have to understand what 'CAEV' is. Caprine arthritis-encephalitis virus is a retrovirus that infects goats. It is 'like' HIV in the sense that they are both lentiviruses, that is, more complex (more genes) retroviruses. They both share the standard gag, pol, and env genes all retroviruses have, plus a few accessory genes: rev, tat, and vif. HIV also has a few more.

But while there are similarities, CAEV and HIV are not 'the same' any more than you and blue whales are 'the same' (I tried to align an amino acid sequence of a CAEV Env with an HIV-1 Env, and the program was like 'Nuh uh. Dees dont go together.')

So: How could CAEV be used to cure HIV?

1-- Anti-CAEV antibodies from goats could stop HIV!

Dr. Whatever said, specifically, that he 'looked for the absence of disease'. Where should there have been HIV, but there wasnt, and figure out what was different in the environment. His finding? The people drank milk from arthritic goats (CAEV infected animals), and were 'cured' of their HIV infections.

Maybe it was the anti-CAEV antibodies secreted in the goats milk that stopped HIV?

Not likely.

First, adult humans, like Charlie Sheen, like the HIV free people in this community, dont absorb antibodies from the foods we eat. We certainly could not absorb concentrations of antibodies necessary to stop the number of viruses circulating in humans during acute or substantially progressed HIV infection.

Even if we did, the process would eventually stop working.


Because we would eventually start making antibodies to the goat antibodies.

They are not something your immune system would recognize as 'self', so your body would try to stop these foreign proteins, even if the antibodies were 'helping'. Your immune system doesnt know or understand that.

That is why when we make antibodies for therapy, they must be genetically modified to look as 'human' as possible.

This is also granting the premise that the goat antibodies would stop HIV, which looks significantly different from CAEV... when they aint stopping CAEV in the goat.

There is some evidence that some goat antibodies can 'see' parts of HIV. But 'seeing' HIV and 'stopping' HIV are entirely different things. People infected with HIV make LOTS of antibodies that 'see' HIV... but they dont do jack shit to stop the virus.

That is the kicker, and there is no evidence that goat CAEV viruses can neutralize HIV, or mediate ADCC activity, or stop HIV in any capacity.


2-- CAEV for HIV is like cowpox for smallpox!

Dr. Whatshisface also mentioned cowpox/smallpox. MAYBE it isnt the antibodies in goats milk that are stopping HIV, but the actual virus!

If the virus is being transmitted to humans via milk, and these humans are making their own antibodies that stop CAEV which cross-react with HIV, then that gets around the humanized antibody therapy thing, right?


... But then again, this still doesnt address the fact that antibodies to CAEV would not necessarily translate into antibodies that can stop HIV. I mean, just to reemphasize this point-- You know how you have to get a flu shot every year because the flu changes? And the antibodies you made that protected you last year might not protect you this year? Little changes between variants of influenza drastically effect your immune systems ability to stop the virus. This strategy bets that two different species of retroviruses, viruses whos *specialty* is evading antibodies, cross-react beautifully to stop disease.

I would not make that bet.

And then there is no evidence humans are exposed to CAEV via goat milk and make protective anti-HIV antibodies. Indeed, if this were the case, these 'protected' individuals would 'test positive' for HIV. Initial HIV tests look for antibodies to HIV... so the test would would detect the cross-reactive antibodies in these 'CAEV' people. They would all be HIV positive, and have no viral loads (because they were protected from HIV). And then the scientific community, not some random dude, would be studying these populations to figure out 'how they were controlling HIV'. *shrug*


3-- CAEV as a gene-therapy vector vs HIV!

To his credit, Dr. Dude did say that his magic approach to curing HIV was not like what scientists were doing-- genetically modifying viruses to cure cancers and genetic diseases.

But, since hes not really doing anything and we are just playing, lets pretend. Maybe CAEV could be used as a gene-therapy vector to stop HIV!

This could work, maybe!

Lentiviruses are relatively safe ways to deliver 'healthy' genes. And humans, just walking around, probably are not making antibodies to CAEV (they are so some of the preferred vectors, causing problems). But we have no idea what cells, if any, CAEV would infect-->deliver genes in humans. We dont know how well CAEV would express the delivered genes. We also dont know what information to give CAEV. CRISPR to cut out CCR5? The genes for producing broadly neutralizing antibodies?

I am not sure this is a promising avenue of research (CAEV as gene therapy, not gene therapy vs HIV in general)-- I could only find one publication on this topic in PubMed, and its from 2006.



Dear Mr. Maher--

Ill be on the West coast in a couple weeks if you want to have a real Dr. on your show to talk about HIV.

Have your people call my people.


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this subject is controversial thus need more extensive research but to make insinuations to the contrary does not prove or disprove anything. scientist/doctors disagree on many things so making comments and correlate studies with a bunch of maybes as a conclusions does not prove a point.

this subject is controversial thus need more extensive research
No, people saying "Bullshit!!!" is not the same as "needs more extensive research".
But if you want to pay for that research, go for it!

By herr doktor bimler (not verified) on 18 Feb 2016 #permalink

I ate bacon for breakfast this morning. I did not catch the flu today. Maybe swine flu protected me from human flu? Should we spend a few $million studying this? Should you pay me a few $thousand to eat some bacon I cooked up in Mexico?

By Dr. PS Duke (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

I mean, I guess if you're looking for new novel vectors CAEV isn't the worst choice. It's a virus that infects mammals (good) and most humans haven't already been exposed to and therefore don't already have immunity to (good). But the non-human part is also bad because the virus might not infect people at all, or only poorly, or only the wrong kind of cells.

So I'm pretty sure there are more systematic ways of finding new lentivirus vectors than what a known crazy celebrity's not-doctor says.

By JustaTech (not verified) on 23 Feb 2016 #permalink

I read a vox article that made a pretty strong claim about human milk.…

From the article:

Worldwide, only about 10 to 20 percent of infants breastfed by mothers with HIV catch the virus, and new research has identified the reason. A protein called Tenascin-C, naturally present in all breast milk, binds to the virus and prevents it from attacking human cells.

Is this woo or an up and coming treatment? COULD it be a treatment?