Hope over HIV vaccine

2016-12-01 11:53
Nkosiyazi Mncube (23) is injected as part of the trial of an experimental vaccine at the Verulam HIV Prevention Research Unit on Wednesday morning.

Nkosiyazi Mncube (23) is injected as part of the trial of an experimental vaccine at the Verulam HIV Prevention Research Unit on Wednesday morning. (Abhi Indrarajan)

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2015-12-01 13:49

We speak to Dr. Eric Goemaere from Doctors Without Borders, watch him tell us about the progress South Africa has made when it comes to eradicating HIV.WATCH

An HIV/Aids preventative vaccine trial, running only in South Africa, could create immunity to the virus in people. A KwaZulu-Natal research centre’s first trials started on Wednesday.

The trial, called HVTN 702 (HIV Vaccine Trials Network), is the first in the world in seven years, and if effective, could make a major dent in the number of new HIV infections in South Africa.

HVTN and the South African Medical Research Council’s HIV Prevention Research Unit said in a statement that this was the largest and most advanced HIV vaccine clinical trial to take place in the country.

HVTN 702 protocol chair and president and CEO of the Medical Research Council of South Africa (MRC) Professor Glenda Gray said that HIV had taken a “devastating toll” in the country with 1 000 new infections every day. She said the study could hold “great promise”.

“If an HIV vaccine were found to work in South Africa, it could dramatically alter the course of the epidemic.”

The experimental vaccine regimen is based on the one investigated in the RV144 clinical trial in Thailand led by the U.S. Military HIV Research Programme and the Thai Ministry of Health.

The statement said the Thai trial delivered landmark results in 2009, and the experimental vaccine regimen it tested was found to be 31,2% effective in preventing HIV infection over the three-and-a-half-year follow-up period after vaccination.

The HVTN 702 study has been modified to increase the magnitude and duration of the protective immune responses from the vaccine.

HVTN principal investigator Dr Larry Corey said the trial is a “significant” HIV prevention milestone.

“In earlier studies, this vaccine regimen improved on many of the antibody responses to the types of HIV strains circulating in South Africa, providing us the scientific basis to conduct this pivotal trial.

“This study will provide important insights into vaccine development to help prevent new infections and end the epidemic,” he said.

The study is being conducted solely at 15 research centres in South Africa.

The 5 400 study volunteers are being randomly assigned to receive either the investigational vaccine regimen or a placebo.

All study participants will receive injections on five occasions over one year.

The safety of HVTN 702 study participants will be closely monitored throughout the trial.

The vaccines do not contain the whole HIV and therefore do not pose any danger of HIV infection to study participants.

“Despite these precautions, some study participants will become infected with HIV in a similar manner to other members of the community,” said the statement.

“They will be referred to local medical providers for care and treatment and will be counselled on how to reduce their risk of transmitting the virus.”

The trial is being funded by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and the South African Medical Research Council (MRC).

If HVTN 702 is shown to be effective, this South African trial could lead to the licensing of the world’s first HIV vaccine.

The KZN site for the trial is in Verulam, Durban.

Verulam HIV Prevention Research Unit principal investigator Dr Anamika Premrajh said they enroled their first female and male volunteers on Wednesday who were “happy and excited” to be part of the trials.

She said the results of the trial should be through by the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  hiv vaccine

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