New HIV vac­cine study starts in South Africa

Jamaica Gleaner - - HEALTH -

A NEW HIV vac­cine is now being tested in South Africa in a study that aims to en­rol sev­eral thou­sand peo­ple, of­fi­cials an­nounced on Mon­day.

The study is the first in seven years to test the ef­fec­tive­ness of a vac­cine against HIV, said the Na­tional In­sti­tutes of Health (NIH), which is fund­ing the study.

“If de­ployed along­side our cur­rent ar­moury of proven HIVpre­ven­tion tools, a safe and ef­fec­tive vac­cine could be the fi­nal nail in the cof­fin for HIV,” Dr An­thony Fauci, di­rec­tor of the NIH’s Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases, said in a state­ment. “Even a mod­er­ately ef­fec­tive vac­cine would sig­nif­i­cantly de­crease the bur­den of HIV dis­ease over time in coun­tries and pop­u­la­tions with high rates of HIV in­fec­tion.”

In South Africa, more than 1,000 peo­ple con­tract HIV each day, the NIH said.

The last HIV vac­cine to show prom­ise was tested in Thai­land start­ing in 2003. In 2009, re­searchers from that study an­nounced that the vac­cine was 31 per cent ef­fec­tive at pre­vent­ing HIV in­fec­tion over 3.5 years. In other words, the rate of in­fec­tion was 31 per cent lower in the group that got the vac­cine, com­pared to the group that got a placebo.

The new South African study will use an HIV vac­cine that is sim­i­lar to the one used in the Thai study but that has been mod­i­fied to pro­vide greater and longer-last­ing pro­tec­tion, the re­searchers said.

The re­searchers want to en­rol 5,400 sex­u­ally ac­tive men and women, ages 18 to 35, who do not have HIV, and re­sults are ex­pected in 2020, the NIH said.

SCI­EN­TIFIC EX­PLO­RATION

“HIV has taken a dev­as­tat­ing toll in South Africa, but now we be­gin a sci­en­tific ex­plo­ration that could hold great prom­ise for our coun­try,” study re­searcher Glenda Gray, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the South African Med­i­cal Re­search Coun­cil, said in a state­ment.

In the Thai study, re­searchers used two vac­cines: one called ALVAC-HIV, which con­sisted of a bird virus that had been mod­i­fied to con­tain three HIV genes, and an­other vac­cine called a pro­tein sub­unit vac­cine, which con­tained a ge­net­i­cally en­gi­neered ver­sion of a pro­tein found on the sur­face of HIV.

The South African study will use these two vac­cines, but with some key changes. Both vac­cines in the new study have been mod­i­fied to pro­tect against a sub­type of the virus known as HIV sub­type C, which is found in es­pe­cially high num­bers in South Africa. In ad­di­tion, the pro­tein sub­unit vac­cine used in the new study will con­tain a dif­fer­ent ad­ju­vant (an in­gre­di­ent added to a vac­cine to boost its ef­fects) than the one used in the Thai study. And the South African study will in­clude a booster shot af­ter one year, with the hopes of pro­long­ing the pro­tec­tive ef­fect, the re­searchers said.

Par­tic­i­pants in the new study will be ran­domly as­signed to re­ceive ei­ther the study vac­cines or a placebo. If any par­tic­i­pants be­come in­fected with HIV, they will be re­ferred to lo­cal med­i­cal staff for care, and will be coun­selled on how to re­duce their risk of trans­mit­ting HIV, the NIH said.

Sanofi Pas­teur will sup­ply the ALVAC-HIV vac­cine, and Glax­oSmithK­line will pro­vide the pro­tein sub­unit vac­cine.

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