Scientists have tested a brand new vaccine against HIV and AIDS on monkeys. And with success. The vaccine appears to be able to make the body of the animals AIDS-free. Researchers hope that it will not be long before the vaccine can also be tested on humans.
The researchers tested the vaccine on monkeys with SIV: a form of HIV that humans cannot, but primates can. The vaccine appeared to be able to completely ban the virus that causes AIDS among monkeys from the animals' bodies.
In many cases, a vaccine contains a weakened or dead virus that stimulates the body to produce antibodies. As soon as one comes into contact with the real virus, the body is already prepared. However, previous experiments where experimental animals were exposed to a weakened HIV virus did not produce the desired result. The T cells - cells that fight diseases and thus form an important part of the immune system - were found to be unable to remove the real HIV virus from the body despite vaccination. The researchers therefore started looking for a different approach.
How does it work?
They used the cytomegalie virus for this. A large part of the human population already has this virus - unknowingly - among its members. The researchers combined the cytomegalie virus with SIV: they adapted the cytomegalie virus to generate SIV proteins. In fifty percent of the cases, the combination of the two viruses turned out to be able to prepare the body for the real SIV virus. The researchers gave the vaccine to a group of monkeys and then exposed them to the SIV virus. All monkeys became infected, but the immune system of fifty percent of the animals subsequently succeeded in completely driving the AIDS-causing virus out of the body.
"Thanks to this method, we were able to teach the monkey body how to better prepare for the disease," says researcher Louis Picker. "We hope that combining the modified CMV vector with HIV will lead to similar results among people."