Published: Mon, July 09, 2018
Medical | By Marta Holmes

HIV Vaccine Inspires Hope After 'Promising' Results in Human Trials

HIV Vaccine Inspires Hope After 'Promising' Results in Human Trials

To date, it's only one of five experimental HIV-1 vaccine concepts to make it this far in nearly four decades of the HIV pandemic.

While previous experimental HIV-1 vaccines have usually been limited to specific regions of the world, this vaccine combines different HIV viruses.

A vaccine has proven elusive as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) mutates easily and can hide away in cells, evading the immune system, only to re-emerge and spread years later.

"These results represent an important milestone".

The vaccine generated robust immune responses against HIV in healthy adults.

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A new HIV vaccine is inspiring "cautious" hope in scientists after it passed human trials with "promising" results.

According to a study in The Lancet, a new HIV vaccine is now being tested and developed, showing promising results thus far. Thousands of people are still contracting HIV every year in the US - an estimated 38,500 people became infected with the virus in 2015 alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest statistics.

The drug Prep, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is effective at preventing HIV infection, but, unlike a vaccine, it needs to be taken regularly, even daily, to prevent the virus from taking hold.

Asked for his opinion, Robert Gallo, MD, co-founder and director of the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, said that there are probably seven or eight studies of HIV vaccines going on right now, and the real question is obviously will be what the efficacy trials of this vaccine will say.

"How do we make a vaccine that raises immune expenses relevant for all the HIV sequences?" said Barouch.

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For the latest study, published in The Lancet medical journal, Barouch and a team tested the candidate drug on 393 healthy, HIV-free adults aged 18 to 50 in east Africa, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States. They were injected with the vaccine four times in the span on 48 hours. Both groups were also given an injection of the common cold virus to boost their immune systems - once at the start of the trial and again 12 weeks in.

Researchers are still testing to see if the immune response triggered by the vaccine can actually prevent the infection of HIV, specifically. Five participants reported at least one vaccine-related grade 3 adverse event such as abdominal pain and diarrhea, postural dizziness, and back pain.

The Ad26/Ad26 plus gp140 vaccine candidate induced the greatest immune responses in humans and also provided the best protection in monkeys, resulting in complete protection against infection of SHIV, a virus similar to HIV that infects monkeys, in two-thirds of the vaccinated animals.

The authors note several limitations, including the fact that that the relevance of vaccine protection in rhesus monkeys to clinical efficacy in humans remains unclear. "We don't know whether protection in monkeys means there will be protection in humans".

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