New HIV Vaccine Shows Promising Results in Humans, Monkeys

With an estimated 1.8 million new cases of HIV every year, a safe and effective vaccine would be an incredible tool in stopping the pandemic.

The vaccine could have the potential to protect people around the world from the threat of the virus.

"The challenges in the development of an HIV vaccine are unprecedented, and the ability to induce HIV-specific immune responses does not necessarily indicate that a vaccine will protect humans from HIV infection". In monkeys, 67 percent were protected against the closely-related SHIV infection. Participants either received 4 vaccinations over 48 weeks-2 doses of a prime vaccine followed by 2 doses of a booster vaccine-or placebo.

Results showed that all vaccine regimens tested were capable of generating anti-HIV immune responses in healthy individuals and were well tolerated, with similar numbers of local and systemic reactions reported in all groups, most of which were mild-to-moderate in severity.

An experimental HIV vaccine was safe and triggered strong immune responses in healthy adults and in monkeys, researchers report. However, creating a vaccine has proven very hard for scientists "because there are so many strains of the virus" and " because HIV is adept at mutating to elude attack from our immune systems". The HIV-1 vaccine proved safe and is now set to go to the next phase, which will be conducted in 2600 women in Southern Africa in a trial called imbokodo, a Zulu word for "rock".

Preliminary results of the APPROACH trial in humans were presented at last year's International AIDS Conference; now they appear in peer-reviewed form for both the human and non-human studies in The Lancet.

The study selected participants from around the world, notably those from the United States, Thailand, South Africa, Uganda, and Rwanda.

"I would say that we are pleased with these data so far, but we have to interpret the data cautiously". Also, the scientists stressed that the trials in humans would end between 2021 and 2022.

Barouch reminded that this is the "fifth HIV vaccine concept" that has been tested in the four decades of the advent of HIV.

"Although these data are promising, we need to remain cautious", said study leader Dan Barouch, a Harvard Medical School professor.

In the APPROACH trial of almost 400 participants, researchers conducted a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study to assess the safety, tolerability, and immunogenicity of several vaccine regimens in humans.

Approximately 37 million people worldwide are believed to be living with HIV or AIDS, with children accounting for two million of them. But there are reasons to be optimistic. They also note that there is no definitive immunological measurement that is known to predict protection against HIV-1 in humans.

"The evidence gives strong optimism since previous attempts were elusive and it provides a new benchmark for future improvements", he added.

(Copyright © 2015. All Rights Reserved.)

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