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AIDS vaccine

February 2, 2011

Researchers in Spain have developed a vaccine that decreases the presence of AIDS in patients, but it doesn't remove the virus completely.

Syringes stick out of a small green globe covere in red pins
The vaccine could one day replace current antiretroviral treatmentImage: picture alliance/Bildagentur-online

Researchers in Spain announced on Tuesday that they had developed a vaccine which decreases the presence of AIDS within patients, but does not, they cautioned, remove it completely.

A total of 24 patients participated in the clinical trial, directed by HIVACAT, the Catalan AIDS vaccine research project.

One of the contributing members, the Hospital Clinic of Barcelona, reported that by the end of 24 weeks of treatment with a therapeutic vaccine based on the patient's own dendritic cells, the majority of the recipients showed "significant" decreases in the viral load.

The results, which were first published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases in January, did not find that the AIDS virus was diminished entirely in any of the trial's patients.

The use of the patients' own dendritic cells effectively personalized each vaccine, the Barcelona hospital said. Dendritic cells are the so-called messenger cells of the immune system.

The hospital claimed that no therapeutic vaccine had reached equivalent levels of response until this trial.

"This reduction in the viral load is still considered to be insufficient," the statement said, "But it is the first therapeutic vaccine which has achieved a positive response in the majority of patients."

Aiming to replace antiretroviral treatment

"The principal objective of therapeutic vaccines is to minimize the need for antiretroviral drug treatment," the hospital statement said.

Antiretroviral treatments have improved and become simple to administer for the majority of AIDS patients. But daily administration and the cost are somewhat prohibitive, the hospital said. Conversely, therapeutic vaccines are easier to produce, the hospital reported.

There are 33.3 million people living with HIV, according to the United Nations AIDS agency UNAIDS.

According to the UN, since the beginning of the epidemic in the 1980s, more than 60 million people have been infected with HIV and nearly 30 million have died of HIV-related causes.

Author: Stuart Tiffen
Editor: Holly Fox