MadSci Network: Virology

Re: How close are we to an AIDS vaccine?

Date: Fri Feb 19 13:12:08 1999
Posted By: Brian Foley, Post-doc/Fellow Molecular Genetics
Area of science: Virology
ID: 918094965.Vi

We already have several vaccines being tested in humans. They were tested in different species of monkeys first. However, the current vaccines being tested were designed 5-10 years ago and they are not expected to work 100% of the time; some vaccinated people will still become infected. The vaccines being designed today first have to be tested in animals before they can be tested in humans, and that means a 4-8 years from now we can start testing vaccines designed today.

We learn more about HIV every day, so we hope the vaccines will continue to improve over time.

> About how many people in the U.S. die from the AIDS virus each 
> year? 
You can look up all sorts of statistics on HIV and AIDS at the US Center for Diesease Control at: or

The World Health Organization keeps track of HIV/AIDS in the rest of the world:

> What does the AIDS virus do to the human body that is so 
> harmful?
It infects T cells and Macrophages which express the CD4 protein on their surface. T-cells and macrophages are two types of white blood cells. The T-cells are improtant for controling the function of the immune system. Over a few years time (1-10 years) these cells are killed off faster than they can be replaced so the number of these cells in the patient's blood drops down. With less than 200 CD4 cells per milliliter of blood, the immune system no longer works well, and the patient is unable to fight off infections from other viruses and bacteria. It is these secondary infections that actually do the most harm.

You can find a lot of basic information on HIV and AIDS in the SCI.MED.AIDS FAQ (frequently asked questions for the USENET group

>       These questions are for a school science project, and in 
> order for me to get credit for doing it I must get a direct e-
> mail back from a scientist. That is why I can't use any things 
> that you already have posted. Thank you for answering my 
> questions to the best of your ability.
Brian Foley, Ph.D.
HIV Genetic Sequence Database

P.S. Here's a recent press release:

GENEVA, Feb 9 (AFP) - Thailand will become the first country in the developing world to conduct large-scale testing of an AIDS vaccine aimed at preventing infection with the HIV virus, the United Nations AIDS programme said Tuesday.

Some 2,500 people, mostly young male intravenous drug-users who are at high risk of HIV infection, have volunteered to participate in the so-called Phase III trial, the most advanced test of its kind being undertaken, UNAIDS officials told a briefing in Geneva.

The initiative, due to begin in two to three weeks, follows a phase III vaccine trial begun in June 1998 among 5,000 volunteers in the United States. Most of the US volunters were at risk of HIV infection through sexual transmission.

The test is being conducted by the California-based firm VaxGen, said Jose Esparza, the UNAIDS vaccine team leader.

The vaccine to be tested in Thailand -- which has undertaken a series of smaller experiments -- will differ from the product used in the United Sates in order to match the different strains of HIV which exist in the southeast Asian country, Esparza said.

The experiment in Thailand, estimated to cost between six to nine million dollars, is being financed by VaxGen and some other US aid. There is no Thai public money involved, Esparza said.

The US-based experiment is estimated to be costing around 30 to 40 million dollars, he said.

Preliminary results on the efficacity of the vaccine will be available in 30 months, and the full study will take three or four years to complete.

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