A human trial to test a new immune drug capable protecting people against HIV infections has led to a 97 per cent success rate, according to scientists at Scripps Research in San Diego, California.
In fact, the trial has been so promising that vaccine giant Moderna has agreed to join the next stage of the development of the drug, which is capable of stimulating a rare set of immune cells that play a key role in fighting the fast-mutating human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The drug sets off the production of specific immune cells that are able to generate antibodies capable of resisting HIV, according to IAVI, a non-profit research organisation that is involved in the financing and development of the Scripps Research trial.
97 per cent of the 48 healthy adult volunteers who were given the vaccine produced the HIV-resistant cells, IAVI confirmed.
So far, HIV has always managed to elude vaccines because it attacks the immune system directly and has proved to be extremely efficient in evading immune defences throughout the entire body
However, the Scripps researchers stressed this trial demonstrates “proof of principle for a new vaccine concept for HIV, a concept that could be applied to other pathogens, as well,” according to William Schief, a professor and immunologist at Scripps Research and executive director of vaccine design at IAVI’s Neutralizing Antibody Centre.
“We showed that vaccines can be designed to stimulate rare immune cells with specific properties, and this targeted stimulation can be very efficient in humans,” Schief said in a statement.
An estimated 38 million people worldwide currently live with the HIV. According to the WHO, there were about 1.7m new infections in 2019, and around 690,000 people died from HIV-related causes during that year.
Ever since HIV first emerged as a pandemic in the early 1980s, scientists have been trying to outsmart the notorious virus.
Even though nowadays the virus can be controlled through medication, a lasting and definite solution in the form of a vaccine has so far never been produced, particularly since it easily mutates into different strains.
As a result of the rapid mutation, HIV has millions of different strains. Therefore, antibodies against one strain are unlikely to neutralize any others.
“So HIV is not really one virus,” Schief explained to Medical News Today yesterday. “It’s really like 50m different viruses around the world right now.”
However, results from the Scripss Research human trial showed the body is fact capable of producing cells that can not only halt and fend off HIV, but they can do so for a range of different variants.
Scripps Research said the next step would be an additional clinical trial, in partnership with Moderna, which has agreed to produce a so-called mRNA version of the vaccine, “a step that could lead to faster vaccine availability”, Scripps Research clarified in its statement.