There may be a glimmer of hope in the fight to protect people against HIV-1, the most widespread type of the virus and the one that causes the most diseases worldwide.
It appears that a new vaccine is safe and induced an immune response in humans and rhesus monkeys in an early trial, according to new research published Friday in The Lancet.
That means it's safe enough to move on to the next testing phase, which involves a greater number of humans. It is one of the five experimental concepts of HIV-1 vaccines that have come so far during the 35 years of the HIV pandemic.
With 1.8 million new cases of human immunodeficiency virus each year, according to United Nations estimates, and nearly 37 million people living with HIV worldwide, the search for a vaccine has It was urgent, and extremely difficult.
Scientists use these initial phases of clinical trials to determine the best dose to use and to see if a vaccine is safe.
new vaccine was tested in 393 healthy people considered at low risk of infection and 72 rhesus monkeys. The trial participants in humans came from 12 clinics in South Africa, East Africa, Thailand and the United States.
In addition to being well tolerated by all test subjects and inducing an immune response against HIV in humans, the vaccine provided 67% protection against infection by human simian immunodeficiency virus in rhesus monkeys. It is not clear if it would provide protection in humans.
Because this phase of the trial was considered successful, the vaccine can be tested in a larger patient population that has an increased risk of infection. That trial began in the fall and is ongoing in 2,600 women across sub-Saharan Africa.
The researchers caution that the results of the early trial do not mean a viable vaccine. The ability to induce HIV-specific immune responses does not necessarily mean that the vaccine will protect humans from HIV infection.
"I would say we are happy with this data so far, but we must interpret the data with caution," he said. co-author of the study, Dr. Dan H. Barouch, principal investigator of the study, professor of medicine at the Harvard Medical School and director of the Virology and Vaccine Research Center. "We have to recognize that developing a vaccine against HIV is an unprecedented challenge, and we will not know for sure if this vaccine will protect humans."
Only four vaccine concepts have been tested in humans, and only one provided evidence of protection in an efficacy trial, but the effect was considered too low to be available for use.
The new vaccine proved to be protective in monkeys, and although antibodies against HIV were generated in humans, it is not clear whether the vaccine will protect against infection.
"It's a very interesting study, Obviously, the search for a vaccine against HIV is very elusive," said Dr. Carlos del Río, who was not involved in the study but did similar research as a co-principal investigator. of the Emory-CDC HIV Clinical Trials Unit. Its unit is one of 37 clinical trial units responsible for implementing the scientific agenda of the International HIV / AIDS Clinical Research Network of the National Institutes of Health.
"Despite all the advances we have made with HIV, we need a vaccine, it is essential, and this new vaccine, although there is still a long way to go, it is good to see solid evidence to move on to the next phase of tests ".