According to research recently published in the Lancet, researchers have made an important breakthrough towards developing a vaccine to protect against HIV.
Most attempts have failed because the virus is able to rapidly mutate, making most vaccines ineffective.
However, scientists in the US have created a vaccine that has managed to get to the first step, with almost 400 healthy uninfected adults mounting an immune response to the vaccine.
The trial recruited 393 HIV-uninfected adults aged 18 to 50 from clinics in east Africa, South Africa, Thailand and the US.
The Mosaic HIV vaccine is one of only five experimental vaccines to make it this far since the HIV/AIDS epidemic began.
But it remains to be seen whether the vaccine will make it past the next step when it will be given to 2600 at risk women in Southern Africa.
The research shows that the experimental vaccine generated robust immune responses.
“These results represent an important milestone,” said Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and leader of the study, Professor Dan Barouch. “But these results should be interpreted cautiously. The challenges in the development of an HIV vaccine are unprecedented, and the ability to induce HIV-specific immune responses does not necessarily indicate that a vaccine will protect humans from HIV infection.”
Almost 37 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS, with an estimated 1.8 million new cases every year.
In the 35 years of the HIV epidemic, only four HIV vaccine concepts have been tested in humans, and only one has provided evidence of protection.