The fight against HIV continues, and the HIV vaccine developed by researchers at Harvard brings hope to medical professionals and people all over the world.
The vaccine was tested on 393 people from 12 clinics around the world, and it showed that it can produce a positive immune system response. Participants from South Africa, East Africa, the United States and Thailand received a ‘mosaic’ vaccine in a double-blind, random, placebo-controlled trial. The age of participants was of 18-50; all were healthy, and none of them had HIV. In 48 weeks, they received four vaccinations. The combinations in the vaccine were safe to the human body and all produced an anti-HIV response.
Before human trials, the vaccine showed positive results in tests on 72 rhesus monkeys.
Positive Results – Researchers Are Cautious
Dr. Dan H. Barouch is a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and the director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research. He is a principal investigator on the study, and also a co-author of the study. He explains their work so far and what’s expected from the vaccine:
“I would say that we are pleased with these data so far, but we have to interpret the data cautiously. We have to acknowledge that developing an HIV vaccine is an unprecedented challenge, and we will not know for sure whether this vaccine will protect humans.”
Until now, all the positive results show that researchers can continue testing it. The next step would be to test it on a larger group of people. This vaccine is one of the five experimental HIV-1 vaccine concepts that reached such a success in almost 40 years of HIV pandemic.
An HIV Vaccine Is Very Elusive
Worldwide, there are more than 37 million people with HIV or AIDS, and every year there are 2 million new cases of infection with the virus. Researchers are trying to know more about the virus and how it functions, but the cure is still far away.
Some researchers explain that the vaccine is not a solution to the virus, which even if it induces an immune response to HIV, it cannot prevent humans from getting the virus. Dr. Carlos del Rio is one of the researchers that have done similar studies. He is one of the lead investigators of the Emory-CDC HIV Clinical Trials Unit, stating:
“It’s a very interesting study. Obviously, the search for an HIV vaccine is very elusive. Despite all the advances we have had with HIV, we need a vaccine. It is critical, and this new vaccine, while there is a long way to go, it is nice to see robust evidence to move on to the next phase of testing.”
The next phase of testing might start this autumn in southern Africa.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.