'Novel HIV vaccine found safe, effective'


An experimental HIV vaccine showed promise of protecting healthy adults from contracting the deadly virus that killed millions of people in the past years. All the participants went through a random, double blind kind of trial which is being referred to as "mosaic" vaccine which is basically pieces of various HIV viruses, combined together to induce immune responses against the HIV strains.

It has also helped to protect monkeys from the virus similar to HIV. A safe and effective preventative vaccine is urgently needed to curb the HIV pandemic, the researchers said.

"It's probably not the definitive HIV vaccine, but it could be a phenomenal breakthrough", said Jean-Daniel Lelievre from the French Vaccine Research Institute, who also pointed out that, at best, this research will come up with a 100% working vaccine in about ten years from now. An estimated 37 million people live with HIV/Aids, according to the World Health Organisation.

The study was conducted in 2015-2016, and in July 2017, scientists told the world about the results.

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Just because it protected two-thirds of monkeys in a lab trial does not mean the drug will protect humans, "and thus we need to await the results of the. study before we know whether or not this vaccine will protect humans against HIV infection", he said. Every year there are about 1.8 million new cases. However, creating a vaccine has proven very hard 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".

A total of 393 people were recruited from 12 different centres throughout east Africa, South Africa, Thailand and the US.

Researchers have since launched a phase two trial involving 2,600 participants in southern Africa to continue testing how safe and effective the HIV-1 vaccine is.

Barouch is the director of the Center for Virology and Vaccine Research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center as well as a professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School. In the phase one clinical trial, researchers focused on HIV-1.

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Mild side effects were common, and around 1% of people in the trial had more serious adverse reactions to the vaccine.

About nine years ago, another HIV vaccine, RV144, also showed positive results in initial experiments carried out on 16,000 volunteers in Thailand. To address these methodological issues, Barouch and colleagues evaluated the leading mosaic adenovirus serotype 26 (Ad26)-based HIV-1 vaccine candidates in parallel clinical and pre-clinical studies to identify the optimal HIV vaccine regimen to advance into clinical efficacy trials.

The UK newspaper headlines were somewhat overoptimistic, as the design of the study means we can not yet say that the vaccine will truly be effective in people. "Only a clinical efficacy trial can determine if it can protect humans".

While the results so far have been encouraging, the research team and outside experts warn there are no guarantees it will actually work in the next trial phase dubbed HVTN705 or "Imbokodo" - this is Zulu word for "rock".

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Unlike other viruses, such as smallpox, there is substantial variability between HIV viruses: even in one individual.