An HIV-1 vaccine human trial and a parallel trial with rhesus monkeys have shown promising results.
There has been a four decades long challenge to develop a vaccine against the deadly HIV virus that causes AIDS. They also tried the drug on 72 laboratory monkeys and proceeded to infect them with six injections of HIV like viruses.
The fight against HIV continues, and the HIV vaccine developed by researchers at Harvard brings hope to medical professionals and people all over the world.
Based on the results from the APPROACH phase 1/2a clinical trial that involved 393 healthy adults from 12 clinics, a phase 2b trial has been initiated with 2,600 women at risk for acquiring HIV.
It has been estimated that about 37 million people worldwide live with HIV or Aids, and there are an estimated 1.8 million new cases every year.
The study was conducted in 2015-2016, and in July 2017, scientists told the world about the results.
"These results represent an important step for the development of this HIV vaccine", said the study's leading author Dan Barouch, but he cautioned that there is no assurance that the upcoming tests in humans would be as successful as the trials on lab animals. "This is only the 5th HIV vaccine concept that will be tested for efficacy in humans in the 35+ year history of the global HIV epidemic". 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".
The new vaccine proved to be protective in monkeys, and while antibodies against HIV were generated in humans, it is unclear whether the vaccine will protect against 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.
However, researchers said these results should be interpreted cautiously. All of the vaccine combinations turned out safe and produced an anti-HIV immunity. The achievement was considered to be too small for the drug to go ahead and come into the market as a HIV vaccine.
The vaccine improved the immune responses against HIV during a clinical trial involving almost 40 healthy adults. All the subjects of the study received what is known as "mosaic" vaccine.
Dr Michael Brady, medical director at the Terrence Higgins Trust, said it was early days for the vaccine but the signs were "promising".
The researchers tested the different variants of the vaccine on healthy participants from 18 to 50 years old, not infected with HIV.
Dr Brady added that in the meantime there were already tools that were effective for preventing the disease from spreading, such as contraception and treatments for HIV-positive people that prevent them from passing on the virus.
More than 80% of people who received this version also showed positive signs for 2 other measures of immune response. This immune response could protect the humans from the infection.
3d rendered HIV Virus in Blood Stream in color background.
The hope is that it could offer much better protection against the nearly unlimited number of HIV strains found across the world.