(ORDO NEWS) — An important development in the fight against HIV infection is that phase 1 trials of the new vaccine VIR-1388 have begun in the United States and South Africa. The purpose of the trial is to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in generating an immune response to HIV.
Scientific and financial support for the development of this vaccine was provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Vir Biotechnology.
Understanding VIR-1388: A Game Changer in HIV Prevention
VIR-1388 is designed to stimulate the immune system to produce T cells that can recognize and initiate an immune response against HIV, preventing the development of chronic infection. What sets VIR-1388 apart is its use of a cytomegalovirus (CMV) vector that delivers HIV vaccine material without causing disease in participants.
CMV is a virus that has been present in large parts of the world‘s population for centuries, often without causing any symptoms. Its ability to persist in the body for life makes it an ideal candidate for delivering and storing HIV vaccine material over long periods of time, thereby overcoming the weakening of immunity observed with other vaccine vectors.
Years of dedication and collaboration
Development of the CMV vaccine vector began in 2004 with funding from the NIAID. This ongoing collaboration between NIAID, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Vir Biotechnology paved the way for the current trial.
The study, known as HVTN 142, is sponsored by Vir and conducted as part of the NIAID-funded HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN).
Test details: A step towards a global solution
The HVTN 142 trial will include 95 HIV-negative participants from six sites in the United States and four sites in South Africa. Participants will be randomly assigned to one of four study groups, three of which will receive different doses of the vaccine and one will receive a placebo. To ensure the safety of participants, only individuals already living with asymptomatic CMV will be included in the study.
The first results are expected to be available at the end of 2024, and the long-term sub-study will continue to monitor volunteers for three years after the first dose of the vaccine.
Experts weigh in: A glimmer of hope
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the NIAID, expressed optimism about the trial, saying, “This trial is the result of years of scientific work and collaboration, and we can’t wait to see if this new vaccine approach can contribute to the development of an effective HIV vaccine.”
Dr. Fauci’s views are shared by many experts in the field, who believe the trial marks a significant step forward in the search for an HIV vaccine.
Global impact of HIV
HIV remains a pressing global health problem with significant public health and economic implications worldwide. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the number of people living with HIV was estimated at 38 million in 2019, with 1.7 million new infections reported that year. The tragic death rate from HIV infection in 2019 was about 690 thousand people.
However, significant progress has been made in access to treatment: 81% of HIV-positive people know their status and 82% have access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). Of those receiving ART, 88% were able to suppress their viral load, indicating that the treatment was effective.
With the start of the first phase of testing of the VIR-1388 vaccine, there is new hope in the fight against HIV. This revolutionary vaccine has the potential to revolutionize HIV prevention and bring us one step closer to ending the global HIV epidemic.
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