Experimental HIV vaccine emerged successful in monkeys: Study

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Representational Image
Representational Image

New Delhi : For long time, health experts have been working hard to find vaccines for HIV infection. In an attempt a team of scientists have found that an experimental HIV vaccine was effective in monkeys. The aim of the vaccine strategy is to identify the rare, vulnerable areas on HIV and teach the immune system to make antibodies to attack those areas. 

In the study, rhesus macaque monkeys produced neutralising antibodies against one strain of HIV that resembles the resilient viral form that most commonly infects people, called a Tier 2 virus.

The research provides the first-ever estimate of vaccine-induced neutralising antibody levels needed to protect against HIV. "We found that neutralising antibodies that have been induced by vaccination can protect animals against viruses that look a lot like real-world HIV," said Dennis Burton, from The Scripps Research Institute in San Diego, California. 

"Since HIV emerged, this is the first evidence we have of antibody-based protection from a Tier 2 virus following vaccination," added co-author Matthias Pauthner, a research associate at Scripps.

However, the vaccine strategy is yet to try on human. The study provides evidences for the HIV vaccine strategy Burton and his colleagues have been developing since the 1990s. It’s worth mentioning that the study showed that neutralising antibodies were the key to stopping the virus. 

In the study, the team selected and re-vaccinated six low titer monkeys and six high titer monkeys. They also studied 12 unimmunised primates as their control group.

The primates were then exposed to a form of virus called SHIV, an engineered simian version of HIV. This particular strain of the virus is known as a Tier 2 virus because it has been shown to be hard to neutralise, much like the forms of HIV circulating in the human population.

The researchers found that the vaccination worked in the high titer animals. The monkeys could produce sufficient levels of neutralising antibodies to prevent infection.

Pauthner noted that this is an important finding since other labs have focused on the potential for T-cells and other immune system defences to block infection.