AIDS Vaccine Candidate Protects Monkeys from HIV/SIV Hybrid Virus
In recent trials at the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, monkeys that were treated with an AIDS vaccine candidate remained healthy despite exposure to high levels of an HIV-like virus, the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The vaccine uses a "one-two-three punch" -- the first two shots "prime" the immune system to resist HIV, and a third shot contains a modified smallpox virus to "boost protection" against the virus (Recer, AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/9). In the Yerkes trial, 24 monkeys received the three-part vaccine, and seven months after the final shot was administered, vaccinated and nonvaccinated monkeys were exposed to a "highly virulent hybrid" of SIV, the monkey strain of the virus, and HIV. Within five weeks, the hybrid virus suppressed the immune systems of nonvaccinated monkeys, and within 28 weeks, all nonvaccinated monkeys developed opportunistic infections associated with AIDS. However, all 24 vaccinated monkeys remained healthy (Staples, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/9). Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted, "Although the vaccine did not prevent infection, it continues to keep the virus at nearly undetectable levels for at least several months." Senior Author Harriet Robinson, a professor at the Emory University Vaccine Research Center and the Yerkes Regional Primate Research Center, added, "Our results show that we can protect monkeys against an HIV-like virus using an immunization scheme that is practical for use in people." Fauci noted that the study "provides some of the best evidence to date that a preventive HIV vaccine may protect against AIDS," adding, "We do not know yet if this vaccine will work in humans, but plans for the necessary clinical trials are under way." Robinson said that the first human trials for the vaccine are "expected in less than a year" (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/9). The study is published in this week's online issue of Science and will appear in the print issue later this month (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/9).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.