Understanding how Thai vaccine worked is priority
PARIS ‘ The priority for AIDS virologists in coming months is to find out exactly how the Thailand vaccine, which gave 30 percent protection against HIV, worked.
This was the urging of one of the world’s greatest AIDS researchers, Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), at the close of the Paris AIDS Vaccine Conference yesterday (Thurs).
The modest immune protection of recent Thai vaccine ‘ the first vaccine ever to show any effect against AIDS — must be ‘maximised’, urged Fauci.
Results released a month ago on the Thai trial involving 16,400 people, showed 30 percent of those who got a course of six vaccine injections were protected from HIV.
Unlike many other viruses, HIV is formidable which makes the challenges for developing a vaccine massive.
‘With few exceptions, the disease is relentlessly progressive and virtually no one recovers spontaneously,’ said Fauci. ‘The virus is never ultimately cleared and eradicated.’
But when a person is first infected, there is a window of opportunity.
‘Early HIV infection is extraordinarily critical for vaccine development,’ said Fauci, as the virus showed ‘vulnerability’ when it first enters the body.
At the closing ceremony, Nobel prize-winner Dr Francoise BarrÃ©-Sinoussi also stressed that the Thai trial needed to be interrogated so to understand ‘how and why the vaccine reduced the risk of infection’.
‘Be careful about dogma in HIV research. We need new technologies, innovation and high risk concepts in vaccine research,’ said BarrÃ©-Sinoussi , co-winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Medicine for discovering HIV with Luc Montagnier.
Dr Yves Levy of the French National Agency for AIDS Research described the atmosphere of the conference as ‘very special’.
‘Something special happened in Paris and I hope this is the beginning of a new phase of vaccine research,’ said Levy. ‘There was a very special atmosphere of friendship and collaboration although we are in competition with one another.’