Catalan researchers closer to finding a therapeutic vaccine against HIV

The scientists working at the HIVACAT project for the development of an effective cure against the HIV virus are hopeful of finding a vaccine in the near future that would stop patients having to be treated for their whole life, actually eradicating the disease. The researchers have tested a first vaccine that has proved effective in reducing the viral load by up to 95%. However, the vaccine effects are only temporary, so researchers will continue the investigation in order to achieve a permanent effect.


January 3, 2013 10:24 PM

Barcelona (ACN).- A team of researchers at the HIVACAT, a Catalan project for the development of an effective vaccine against the HIV virus, are one step closer to their objective. The researchers have successfully tested a vaccine that paves the way for a potential eradication of HIV that would mean patients would not have to be treated for their whole life. The vaccine targets specific cells and helps to reduce the viral load of the patients by up to 95%. However, the effects are only temporary and so despite having the vaccine patients have to continue with a retroviral treatment. That’s why researchers at the HIVACAT said on Thursday that they need to investigate further in order to find new treatments that could actually mean complete inoculation against HIV.

Until now, research on patients has proved that the vaccine helps the immune system to fight the virus. The doctor Felipe Garcia said that with the vaccine the system “learns how to destroy” the HIV virus. This has been the first time that a therapeutic vaccine has been proved “that effective” as an anti-retroviral treatment. The investigation has been developed with the help of 36 HIV-positive patients. Of them, 24 were vaccinated and 12 were only given a placebo drug. The vaccine was “safe and well tolerated” by the patients, and after 12 weeks researchers found a 90% reduction in their viral load. After 24 weeks, the reduction was lower, therefore suggesting patients were only able to control the virus temporarily, for about a year. After that period, the virus appeared again. That’s why this first vaccine cannot be commercialized because “it doesn’t not work” in fighting the disease completely and forever. However, it paves the way for a better solution in the future. “We are closer to a solution now than we were six or seven years ago”, said Doctor Garcia, because scientists have been able to change the “immunological response” of patients, so then they somehow control the virus. The leader of the project, Doctor Josep Maria Gatell, said the vaccine they tested was a “first step” towards a better solution, but admitted that it is not really “acceptable” if it does not make the viral load completely “undetectable”. Gatell said the researchers have been working for seven years to achieve this first step towards a permanent vaccine, and predicts they will need four or five more to go further. He then added that research is highly dependent on financing and said that with more investment results could come even sooner.