AIDS Vaccine in 2019?

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Credit: Reuters/Dadang Tri

After decades of search for AIDS vaccine, it was a sigh of relief for the victims and incoming victims when it was announced vaccine will be available comes 2019.

“We know the face of the enemy,” declared Dr. Barton Haynes, of Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, and recent director of the Center for HIV AIDS Vaccine Immunology (CHAVI). The research consortium was funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), founded in 2005 by the National Institutes of Health to identify and overcome roadblocks in the design of vaccines for the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS.

In 1984, the HIV that causes AIDS became the most fearsome disease when brutally put victims to death in a deathbed waiting to die while dying. It was announced that after two years vaccine will becomes available. But the press conference by U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Margaret Heckler in 1984 turns out a a failed expectations because of the virus availability to replicate into different strain and the availability of vaccine cast a cloud of doubt for those researchers.

HIV is a moving target, constantly spitting out slightly different versions of itself, with different strains affecting different populations around the world. The virus is especially pernicious since it attacks the immune system, the very mechanism the body needs to fight back. The ability of virus to replicate in another strain makes it difficult for scientist to discover vaccine for decades.

But a breakthrough in 2009 a clinical trial in Thailand involving 16,000 adults gives a hint that it is possible to prevent HIV infections in human using more powerful anti-bodies vaccines. Results of the study published in 2009 showed the vaccine combination cut HIV infections by 31.2 percent. According to Michael and many other experts, the result was not big enough to be considered effective, but its impact on researchers was huge, says Wayne Koff, chief scientific officer of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI) based in New York.

Then a follow-up trial testing to beef-up versions of the vaccines among heterosexuals in South Africa and men who have sex with men in Thailand. A moves to fast-track the results to have a license vaccine in 2019.

A study published in February showed this vaccine protected monkeys from a virulent strain of HIV. Animals that did become infected after repeated exposure also had low levels of virus in their blood. Safety studies in human patients are just starting, with large-scale efficacy studies slated for 2016.

AIDS is no longer a death sentence. Thanks to the drug that control the virus for decades. Although, 34 million people are infected with HIV worldwide, and 2.7 million new infections in 2010 alone, still vaccine is the best solution in preventing the spread of virus.

The current crop of vaccines is largely designed to train immune system cells known as T-cells to recognize and kill cells already infected with HIV. While these trials progress, scientists are working on even more advanced vaccines that activate powerful antibodies to prevent HIV from infecting cells in the first place. Both would be administered before a person becomes exposed to the virus.

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