HIV vaccine candidate shows promise3rd October 2011
A Spanish-led international research team has found promising results in preliminary trials of a vaccine against HIV.
The phase I clinical trial was carried out on a small group of people in Spain, and was primarily designed to test the vaccine's safety, rather than its effectiveness.
Researchers from the Hospital Clinic-IDIBAPS in Barcelona, the CentroNacional de Biotecnologia, CSIC in Madrid reported their findings in the journal Vaccine.
They recruited 30 participants aged 18-55, 24 of whom were men, administering three injections of the vaccine into their muscle.
The MVA-B jab was given in three doses to 24 of them, while a group of six people received a placebo.
Injections were given at the start of the study, four weeks in, and again, 16 weeks later.
They found that more than 75% of the 24 people given the vaccine showed some immune system response, which is a sign that the vaccine may be working.
The new HIV vaccine, known as MVA-B, was made by splicing HIV genes with an existing vaccine for smallpox, in the hope that it would prime the body's immune system to recognise HIV.
It is also hoped that the vaccine could act as a treatment for people who have already been infected with HIV.
None of the trial participants had HIV when the trial started, and none had previously received a smallpox vaccination.
After a follow-up period lasting 48 weeks, a detectable immune response was found in the majority of the study subjects.
A positive T-cell immune response was found in three-quarters of the volunteers, and remained in 68% of participants by the end of the study.
The number of people with an immune response increased after the second injection was given.
By week 18 of the study, 95% of study subjects had antibodies against the vaccine, while 72% still had the antibodies by the final week of the study.
Participants were monitored for side-effects over the period of the study. Some adverse events were reported, although they were not thought to be caused by the vaccine. Some side-effects were also reported, including headaches and pain at the injection site.
Participants were also screened for HIV at the start of the study, and at intervals during the study, as well as being counselled on safer sex practices.
The research was funded by three Spanish research foundations, FIPSE, FIS and HIVACAT, with input from other Spanish, Swedish, Swiss and British research institutions.
The study concluded further exploration of MVA-B as an HIV vaccine candidate is warranted.
However, experts say further trials will be needed to see if the immune response generated is sufficient to deal with HIV.
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