Candidate Aids vaccine passes milestone after tests on monkeys

HIV  Aids screening test during a past World

HIV Aids screening test during a past World

"I would say that we are pleased with these data so far, but we have to interpret the data cautiously", said study co-author Dr. Dan H. Barouch, a principal investigator on the study, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research. In a similarly designed study, Barouch and colleagues tested the same vaccine for its ability to protect rhesus monkeys challenged with an HIV-like virus from infection. The 'mosaic' HIV-1 vaccine has the potential to protect people globally from the virus.

Other researchers caution seeing this vaccine as the final solution to the virus.

Based on the results from this phase 1/2a clinical trial that involved almost 400 healthy adults, a phase 2b trial has been initiated in southern Africa to determine the safety and efficacy of the HIV-1 vaccine candidate in 2,600 women at risk for acquiring HIV. While the monkey test is encouraging, there need to be more tests to show that the drug could effectively fend off infections in humans.

Creating an effective HIV-1 vaccine has been a huge challenge for researchers.

Barouch disclosed support from the NIH, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Janssen Vaccines & Prevention BV, and is a co-inventor on HIV-1 vaccine antigen patents that have been licensed to Janssen Vaccines & Prevention BV.

In addition to the human trials, the vaccine showed a promising response in 72 rhesus monkeys.

BBC News reported on the study Saturday, noting that there are now over 37 million people living with HIV/AIDS around the globe, and the number increases by 1.8 million every year. They recruited 393 HIV-uninfected adults age 18 to 50 from the United States, east Africa, South Africa, and Thailand between February 2015 and October 2015. They got four vaccinations over the span of 48 weeks.

The new vaccine proved to be protective in monkeys, and while antibodies against HIV were generated in humans, it is unclear whether the vaccine will protect against infection.

"I can not emphasise how badly we need to have a get rid of HIV in the next generation altogether", said Francois Venter of the University of the Witwatersrand Reproductive Health and HIV Institute in South Africa.

For the prime vaccine, used to stimulate an initial immune response, participants were injected with Ad26.Mos.HIV, which uses a strain of the common-cold virus. The adults came from clinics across East Africa, South Africa, the US and Thailand. According to the study authors, the vaccine produced "robust (high levels of) immune responses" in the participants.

"The road to the clinic is still unpredictable since the exact mode of action in humans is still unknown and the 67 percent protection in monkeys might not be replicable in humans", said George Williams Mbogo from the Burnet Institute in Australia, who wasn't involved in the study. A safe and effective preventative vaccine is urgently needed to curb the HIV pandemic.

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