‘Mosaic’ HIV Vaccine Shows Promise In First Human Trial

AIDS activists light a group of candles placed in the shape of a red ribbon during an event marking World AIDS Day in Manila

Scientists announced Saturday that they had already piloted an experimental HIV vaccine, which triggered an immune reaction in lab animals and successfully immunized monkeys from the infection. The experimental regimens tested in this study are based on "mosaic" vaccines that take pieces of different HIV viruses and combine them to elicit immune responses against a wide variety of HIV strains. Light of science has tested the drug on healthy people with great attention to detail for the most accurate result, in which identified potential side effects, the safety of the drug and the desired dosage. Each year, around 2 million people are diagnosed with HIV.

BBC News reported on the study Saturday, noting that there are now over 37 million people living with HIV/AIDS around the globe, and the number increases by 1.8 million every year.

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

In the case of the monkeys, one version of the vaccine prevented HIV infection in two-thirds of the monkeys, but this was based on a group of just 12.

The mixture of HIV strains in the "mosaic" vaccine is delivered using a nonreplicating common-cold virus.

In both humans and monkeys, researchers found those who received the vaccine still showed signs of the vaccine in their immune system after a year.

The human trials participants for the study belonged from 12 clinics across the world, which includes east Africa, South Africa, the United States and Thailand. "This study demonstrates that the mosaic Ad26 prime, Ad26 plus gp140 boost HIV vaccine candidate induced robust immune responses in humans and monkeys with comparable magnitude, kinetics, phenotype, and durability and also provided 67 percent protection against viral challenge in monkeys".

The co-author of this study, DR. Dan H. Barouch, at the Harvard Medical School, said in a statement, "I would say that we are pleased with these data so far, but we have to interpret the data cautiously".

However, this "mosaic" HIV-1 vaccine has a multi-target approach.

We don't yet know how well it will protect people from HIV-1 infections in real life. All of the vaccine combinations turned out safe and produced an anti-HIV immunity.

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".

"This is only the fifth HIV vaccine concept that will be tested for efficacy in humans in the 35+ year history of the global HIV epidemic", Barouch added.

Dr Michael Brady, medical director at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said it was early days for the vaccine but the signs were "promising".

In the meantime, the vaccine will be tested on women in South Africa, who are most at risk of contracting the virus.

More than 80% of people who received this version also showed positive signs for 2 other measures of immune response.

This means the person had produced antibodies that would be able to bind to proteins found on the surface of the HIV virus. This immune response could protect the humans from the infection.