The quest for a vaccine to address the AIDS problem appears to be progressing in the right direction. On Thursday, scientists reported that an experimental vaccine was able to protect half the monkeys in batch against a virus similar to that of AIDS.Johnson and Johnson, a household name for long is involved with this research and has already been trying the vaccine in humans. According to experts in vaccine, a new approach is essential to protect from a virus that has resisted every effort to stop it.
Mitchell Warren of HIV vaccine and treatment advocacy group said that it was quite promising according to him. He added that in the 20 years history of AVAC a bunch of products have been examined but they never reached the stage of efficacy trials and most of them eventually failed. Warren however did not participate in the latest studies.
According to the two studies reported in journal Science, the two step vaccine not only protected half the monkeys, but their bodies also produced antibodies that were measurable thus demonstrating how well the monkeys were protected.
Dr. Dan Barouch from Boston’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center stated that we cannot be sure if a vaccine which protects monkey can in fact be capable of protecting humans.
But, Barouch, the lead author of the study opined that this vaccine could be found successful. He went on to state that the monkeys were initially vaccinated and then administered several large doses of a highly virulent monkey version of HIV known as SIV. The immune response produced by the vaccine was found to be strong. He added that even if the vaccine could protect half the people exposed to the virus, it would constitute a stellar accomplishment.
However, the relationship between SIV and HIV is not simple and in fact is complicated. Only humans can be infected by HIV and SIV does not transition to the same type of disease as HIV. Yet they are pretty close for the purpose of testing the vaccine and Barouch stated that SIV used in the present study is more virulent compared to what was used in earlier vaccine studies. Further, the team also administered a combination of HIV-SIV virus termed SHIV in monkeys and the vaccine afforded protection for 40% of the monkeys.
For over 3 decades, researchers have been flummoxed over making an AIDS vaccine and the need now has reached astronomical proportions. More than 78 million people are infected with HIV and some 39 million are already dead according to the WHO.
Source: The Times Gazette