An experimental vaccine trial has shown great promise in protecting half a group of rhesus monkeys against the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a virus that acts like HIV but only affects monkeys.
A total of 12 monkeys were used for the experiment. All were given the same vaccine. Researchers at Johnson & Johnson found that six resisted the virus as well as even produced antibodies against the virus which neutralizes and destroys one’s immune system.
“The findings show that the envelope protein boost following the viral vector priming increases the magnitude and functionality of antibody responses and improves protection,” Dr. Dan Barouch, lead author of the study and director of the BIDMC’s Center for Virology and Vaccine Research, said.
Janssen, a wing of Johnson & Johnson, have started human trials of the vaccine. About 400 patients have enrolled to take part in the study. They come from the United States, East Africa, South Africa and Thailand.
Barouch hope the experimental vaccine trial will yield the same positive results on its human hosts. He noted the SIV used in the present study is more contagious and poisonous compared to those used used in earlier vaccine studies. SIV does not evolve to become HIV, but scientists said they are close for the purpose of testing the vaccine.
Data from the World Health Organizations said over 78 million people are infected with HIV around the world. The virus has killed 39 million, while 35 million have AIDS. Of this figure, 3.2 million are children who got infected of the virus through their also infected mothers.
Researchers have been trying to come up with an effective vaccine for over 30 years.
“I do think that their results are impressive. Even protecting half of the people who are exposed to the virus would be a major accomplishment. It could ultimately end the epidemic when you use it in combination with other measures,” Dr. Mary Marovich, Director of Vaccine Research at the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NIAID, told NBC.