HIV Vaccine Protects Monkeys from the Virus

A new weapon has been created in the fight against HIV. Researchers have developed a vaccine that protects rhesus monkey from an extremely virulent form of simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), which is distantly related to the virus that causes AIDS in humans.

This is not the first time that SIV vaccines have been successful, but scientists are hoping that when combined with data learned from a current human trial that is being conducted, they will be able to develop a vaccine for human HIV.

Bruce Walker, a virologist at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard University told Nature Magazine. “To me, if it’s possible in monkeys it’s got to be possible in humans,”

The vaccine is a two stage virus blocker, where the first stage protects against the common (read easy to kill) strains of the virus followed by a boost vaccine which teaches the antibodies to fight the more virulent strains.

Of the monkeys who were given the vaccine, 12% developed SIV, while the ones who were untreated contracted the disease 74% of the time.

Interestingly enough, the team of scientists continued to inject the monkeys every week with the virus and eventually all the monkeys contracted it, but the vaccine prevented SIV after a single exposure by more than 80%

Dan Barouch, a virologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston and the head of the study team said.”Because HIV does not cause disease in monkeys, SIV is the best model for evaluating vaccines before they are tested in humans”.

Researchers have told people to be cautious in evaluating the results of the trial as it has not been done in humans, but there is some cause for optimism.

If there were an HIV Vaccine on the market, would you take it?