HIV-1 vaccine human trials begun after its partial success in rhesus monkeys

A study, published recently in the widely read journal Science, has revealed a new vaccine for AIDS. Scientists have already tested the vaccine on non-human primates and the results of those tests have been quite impressive. The vaccine succeeded in preventing HIV infection in 50% of the monkeys it was tested on.

During the study, the researchers first injected the monkeys with the new AIDS vaccine. Next, the vaccinated monkeys again got injected with simian immunodeficiency virus or SIV, which is a virus with similar traits as HIV. The monkeys were injected six times in all; the researchers did so for establishing the sustainability of the vaccine.

The results of the study, as mentioned above, were quite impressive. The vaccine could successfully prevent SIV in around 50% of the monkeys even after high exposure to the infection causing virus.

Seeing the fascinating results of the study on non-human primates, Janssen, a wing of Johnson & Johnson, has already started human trials of the vaccine. For those who don’t know: Janssen is the pharmaceutical company behind this new AIDS vaccine.

As many 400 patients from the United States, East Africa, South Africa and Thailand are taking part in the human trials. The year 2007 witnessed the last human trial of an AIDS vaccine. That was followed by several years of struggle for scientists working to formulate an effective AIDS vaccine.

If results of this small human trial turn out to be impressive, scientists have plans of conducting a bigger clinical trial on humans within the next couple of years.

The newly formulated AIDS vaccine needs to be administered in two steps. The first one involves injection of cold weakened virus. The second one, on the other hand, involves injection of an extremely pure form of an HIV surface protein. This second injection would give one’s immune system the power of reacting strongly to the targeted invader.

Dr Mary Marovich, the director of National Institute for Allergy & Infectious Diseases’ vaccine research program, said that if the vaccine can successfully prevent HIV infection in at least 50% of the human participants of this preliminary trial she would regard it as a big achievement.

Experts believe that if the vaccine turns out to be effective, it will have an enormous public health impact.