As part of global efforts to tackle the spread of HIV, a human trial of an experimental HIV vaccine, is set to begin in the second half of 2019. According to the findings of a new study published in the journal; ‘Nature Medicine,’ part of the aims of the human trial was to refine the vaccine, boost its potency and ultimately produce a version that’s suitable for testing in people. According to researchers at the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), which conducted the study, the vaccine, in an earlier study protected animals from dozens of strains of HIV.
The vaccine targeted a vulnerable site on HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and triggered antibody production in mice, guinea pigs and monkeys, they noted in the study led by Peter Kwong and Dr. John Mascola, of the NIAID Vaccine Research Centre.
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a lentivirus (a subgroup of retrovirus) that causes HIV infection and over time, the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). While HIV kills or damages the body’s immune system cells, AIDS is the most advanced stage of the infection. HIV continues to be a major global public health issue. In 2016, an estimated 36.7 million people were living with HIV (including 1.8 million children).
Since the start of the epidemic, an estimated 78 million people had become infected with HIV and 35 million people had died of AIDS-related illnesses, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In 2016 alone, one million people died of AIDS-related illnesses. The vast majority of people living with HIV were located in low and middle income countries, with an estimated 25.5 million living in sub-Saharan Africa. Also, Nigeria currently ranks the second largest with HIV epidemic in the world, with 3.4 million living with the virus. Similarly, it has the highest cases of HIV-positive children in the world.
However, the ‘Newsmax- Health’ quoted NIAID Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, as saying the scientists in the new study, used their detailed knowledge of the structure of HIV to find an unusual site of vulnerability on the virus and design a novel and potentially powerful vaccine. “This elegant study is a potentially important step forward in the ongoing quest to develop a safe and effective HIV vaccine,” he added