A viable HIV vaccine found to be effective on monkeys have been discovered. Nearly 30 years after the HIV virus leading to AIDS was first discovered in 1983, scientists have found that an experimental HIV vaccine effective in non-human primates. The scientists conducting the study stated that the goal of this strategy is to identify the rare, vulnerable areas on HIV that could teach the immune system to make antibodies to attack those areas. The study showed that 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.
This new finding is the 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.
This new discovery is shedding a ray of hope for those suffering from the HIV/AIDS virus. The scientists stated that although the vaccine is far from human clinical trials, the study provides proof-of-concept for the HIV vaccine strategy Burton and his colleagues have been developing since the 1990s.
More importantly, the study also showed that neutralising antibodies were the key to stopping the virus which they have earlier failed to take into notice.
For the study, the team of scientist selected and re-vaccinated six low titer (antibody levels) monkeys and six high titer monkeys. They also studied 12 unimmunised primates as their control group. The monkeys 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.
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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.
(With inputs from agencies)