Tags: hiv | vaccine | fails | prevent | reduce

HIV Vaccine Fails To Prevent or Reduce Infections, So Study Halted

Friday, 26 Apr 2013 08:56 AM

By Newsmax Wires

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A study on an experimental HIV vaccine that would have helped fight and prevent infections has been halted by the government after it was found that the shots failed to stop the spread of the virus.

Researchers had hoped the vaccine would prevent new HIV infections as well as reduce the amount of the AIDS virus in the blood when people who'd been vaccinated later became infected. But it failed to do either, The Associated Press reported.

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"It's disappointing," Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the AP. But, "there was important information gained from this" study that will help determine what to try next.

The study had enrolled 2,504 volunteers, mostly gay men, in 19 cities since 2009. Half received dummy shots, and half received a two-part experimental vaccine developed by the NIH. All were provided free condoms and given extensive counseling about the risks for HIV.

It's a strategy known as "prime-boost." A DNA-based vaccine made with genetically engineered HIV material is given to prime the immune system to attack the AIDS virus. Then a different vaccine, encasing the same material inside a shell made of a disabled cold virus, acts as a booster shot to strengthen that response. Neither vaccine could cause HIV.

The idea: Train immune cells known as T cells to spot and attack the very earliest HIV-infected cells in someone's body. The hope was that the vaccine could either prevent HIV infection, or help those infected anyway to fight it.

A safety review this week found that slightly more study participants who had received the vaccine later became infected with HIV. It's not clear why. But the difference wasn't statistically significant, meaning it may be due to chance. Overall, there were 41 HIV infections in the vaccinated group and 30 among placebo recipients. When researchers examined only participants diagnosed after being in the study for at least 28 weeks — long enough for the shots to have done their job — there were 27 HIV infections among the vaccinated and 21 among the placebo recipients.

The NIH said Thursday that it is stopping vaccinations in the study, known as HVTN 505, but that researchers will continue to study the volunteers' health.

Josh Robbins, 30, of Nashville, Tenn., is among the participants who became infected. He said he's glad he was in the study, because its close monitoring meant he was diagnosed and treated much sooner than most people — and he's feeling great — and because the findings help science.

"We've got to keep moving forward," Robbins said. The study "certainly can lead us down a new direction to hopefully find something that might work."

Multiple attempts at creating an AIDS vaccine have failed over the years. A 2009 study in Thailand is the only one ever to show a modest success, using a somewhat different prime-boost approach. Newer research suggests another approach — to try creating powerful antibodies that could work a step earlier than the T-cell attack, before HIV gets inside the first cell.

Both approaches need continued research funding, said Mitchell Warren of the international AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition.

"Clearly an AIDS vaccine remains critical," he said.

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Though this vaccine didn't do what researchers hoped, it still provides vital information for the future of HIV prevention research, said Dr. Susan Buchbinder, director of Bridge HIV, a research, prevention, and education organization operating clinical trials within the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

"As we learn more information we try to revise each vaccine," she said. "And that way we inch closer toward a more effective vaccine."


Related stories:


Baby Cured of HIV Brings New Hope to AIDS Fight

Rapid HIV Treatment Called a ‘Functional’ AIDS Cure

Doctor's 'Gutsy Move' Led to Baby's HIV Cure

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