Monkey jab may open way for HIV vaccine

May 12th, 2011 - 5:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, May 12 (IANS) A potential vaccine for non-human primates may eventually open the way for a vaccine against HIV, researchers say.

A team led by Louis Picker, associate director of the Oregon Health and Science University’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute (VGTI), produced a vaccine candidate that programmes the immune system of non-human primates to respond more swiftly to the presence of a primate version of HIV than it normally would.

VGTI researchers tested their vaccine candidate in rhesus macaque monkeys using a monkey form of HIV called Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV).

Of the monkeys that received the vaccine candidate, just more than half controlled replication of the virus to the extent that even the most sensitive tests could not detect signs of SIV, the journal Nature reports.

To date, the vast majority of these animals have maintained control over the virus for more than a year, gradually losing any signs that they had ever been infected.

Conversely, the macaques in the unvaccinated control group developed the monkey form of AIDS, according to a VGTI statement.

The researchers say their work suggests that the immune responses elicited by this new vaccine candidate might completely clear SIV from animals that were initially infected.

“The next step in vaccine development is to test the vaccine candidate in clinical trials in humans,” said Picker.

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