Human Trials for Topical AIDS Vaccine to Begin This Year, Researcher Says
U.S. and Italian researchers will "soon" begin human trials for a topical vaccine, designed to prevent HIV-positive individuals from developing AIDS, researcher Dr. Franco Lori said on Tuesday at the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain, Reuters Health reports. According to Lori, the vaccine works by "stimulat[ing]" so-called "killer" T cells, which are programmed to destroy infected cells. The vaccine makes contact with the T cells through the skin and then "propel[s]" lymph nodes to "recognize" the virus and "activate HIV-specific killer cells that can eliminate infected cells." The vaccine has already been tested on monkeys infected with SIV, an HIV-like virus. SIV-positive monkeys receiving the vaccine experienced a decrease in viral load and did not experience SIV "rebound" after a break in drug therapy. Lori said he was "optimistic" that the vaccine, which was designed to work in conjunction with antiretroviral drugs, would produce "similar results" in human trials. Lori noted that although antiretroviral drugs can "control" HIV when taken as directed, HIV "rebounds" when AIDS drugs are taken inconsistently, either for cost reasons or because people "simply forget" to take the drugs. Lori added that the vaccine would "keep the virus in check" if the vaccine were taken irregularly. The group plans to begin human trials for the vaccine in Italy and the United States by the end of the year, with the first set of results available at the end of 2003 (Lavanga, Reuters Health, 7/10).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.