How close are scientists to a vaccine for HIV?

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Gunnel Biberfeld, Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control, Professor at the Department of Microbiology, Cell and Tumor Biology, Karolinska Institutet about vaccine for HIV/AIDS.

"Vaccine tests on apes and studies of long-term survivors of HIV and people frequently exposed to HIV who have resisted infection provide us with important information for developing an HIV vaccine."

Bild på Gunnel BiberfeldtA study of 1,350 participants has recently begun in the USA to examine the protective effects of a vaccine combination. The test subjects first receive a DNA vaccine with HIV genes and then a weak common cold virus, it too with HIV genes. A recently completed Swedish study in Tanzania of another HIV vaccine combination  a DNA vaccine with HIV genes followed by a smallpox vaccine also with HIV genes  proved promising, as all the vaccinated participants developed a strong and broad immune defence against HIV.

A new study of the same vaccine will commence this spring in Stockholm, but this time modified to augment both the cellular immune response and the antibody response to HIV. A new extended study of the same vaccine will also take place in Tanzania at the same time.

Facts about HIV/AIDS

Affects: Over 33 million people around the world are HIV positive, and two million die each year.

Caused by: A virus transmitted through bodily fluids.

Problem: There is no cure, only anti-retroviral medicines, which are very costly.

Latest advances: A major vaccine study was presented last autumn in Thailand that demonstrated how a combination of two vaccines could provide 30 per cent protection against HIV infection.

Text: Cecilia Odlind. Published in "Medicinsk Vetenskap" no 1 2010.