According to a study in The Lancet, a new HIV vaccine is currently being tested and developed, showing promising results thus far. The study found that the vaccine “produced an anti-HIV immune system response in tests on 393 people.” While there is still more testing to be done, the treatment has the potential to prevent the infection of HIV. The treatment was also able to protect monkeys from a virus very similar to HIV, although not HIV itself. Researchers are still testing to see if the immune response triggered by the vaccine can actually prevent the infection of HIV, specifically.
BBC News reported on the study Saturday, noting that there are currently over 37 million people living with HIV/AIDS around the globe, and the number increases by 1.8 million every year.
While pre-exposure prophylaxis, or Prep, is a prescription drug that currently prevents HIV, it is a once-daily pill and only prevents infection if it is taken regularly. A vaccine would not only be more manageable, but also more effective. However, creating a vaccine has proven very difficult for scientists “because there are so many strains of the virus” and ” because HIV is adept at mutating to elude attack from our immune systems.” This new vaccine aims to protect people from almost all strains of the virus.
The study selected participants from around the world, notably those from the United States, Thailand, South Africa, Uganda, and Rwanda. Over the course of the 48-week trial, each participant received 4 vaccinations, all of which “produced an anti-HIV immune system response and were found to be safe.”
The same vaccine was also tested on rhesus monkeys and proved to be partially effective, protecting 67 percent of the test subjects from simian-human immunodeficiency virus, a virus similar to HIV. While these results are not perfect, they “represent an important milestone,” Harvard professor, Dan Barouch, said.
Barouch, who is the lead author of the study, also warned, however, “The challenges in the development of an HIV vaccine are unprecedented, and the ability to induce HIV-specific immune responses does not necessarily indicate that a vaccine will protect humans from HIV infection.”
In the meantime, the vaccine will be tested on women in South Africa, who are most at risk of contracting the virus. Researchers aim to test the vaccine on at least 2,600 different women and are hoping that their efficacy trial will produce more promising results.