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AIDS Breakthrough Hailed Following Large Clinical Trial

Posted by Jane Akre
Thursday, September 24, 2009 11:34 AM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: HIV, AIDS, WHO, Thailand, CDC, Sanofi-Aventis, VaxGen

Thailand has become a hotbed of drug testing for infectious disease, including the newest HIV drugs.



IMAGE SOURCE: CDC Page on its collaboration with Thailand


Scientists are always reluctant to use the word “breakthrough” but that is what an experimental AIDS vaccine is being called as a result of the largest ever HIV vaccine clinical trial ever held.

A U.S. – military funded study in Thailand found a combination of two drugs cut the HIV infection by 31.2 percent. Neither vaccine, used previously alone, has had such a success rate.

A cure for the virus that causes the incurable and fatal AIDS infection has been sought since the 1980s. HIV infects about 6,800 globally every day. It is transmitted through bodily fluids and to a baby from the mother.

The latest discovery should revive stalled science on a vaccine ever since a Merck’experimental vaccine actually was found to boost some chances of contracting an infection in a study. The study was called off two years ago.

The Vaccine

The breakthrough vaccine is a combination of ALVAC, made by Sanofi-Aventis SA of Paris, and AIDSVAX from VaxGen Inc., of South San Francisco. The experimental vaccine prevented HIV infections for the first time.

“What is exciting is that this has provided a proof of concept, that we can do this,” says Cat Hankins, chief scientist at UNAIDS, the United Nations AIDS-fighting agency. “Anything is possible now, it feels. It is a scientific breakthrough,” Hankins said by phone from London to Bloomberg.

Bloomberg report that Sanofi’s drug uses a canarypox virus to introduce three HIV genes into the body, when then makes antibodies, T-cells that kill infection. The AIDSVAX also contains an HIV protein called gp120, that enters human cells and encourages the body to produce antibodies to destroy HIV.

Among the 16,000 volunteers in Thailand who received the vaccine, 51 became infected with HIV, while 74 of those participants in the study who received a placebo became infected.

Bloomberg reports the infected were given free treatment. Study sponsors say the vaccines did not cause their HIV infection because they are not made from the entire virus, either live or killed.

Two provinces were chosen in Thailand for the six year study because they have the highest rates of HIV. Since 2001, the CDC and Thailand Ministry of Public Health have been collaborating on research into AIDS, tuberculosis and infectious disease.

Instead of delivering a new vaccine worldwide, the new combination provides scientists with follow the lead and look for new, effective drug combinations. “This is a very important scientific advance, and gives us hope that a globally effective HIV vaccine may be possible in the future,” said Jerome Kim at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research to reporters.

The director of the New York-based AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition says the latest results will transform future research.

33.2 million are reported to be infected with HIV worldwide. #

1 Comment

Anonymous User
Posted by Chris
Thursday, September 24, 2009 3:51 PM EST

A vaccine is great for those who have not yet contracted HIV, but for those of us who are infected HIV and are are the waiting list for the eternal resting place in the near future, a cure would be much better at this point.....

Comments for this article are closed.

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