Vaccine trial raises Aids hopes

Drug combination prevents infection in more than 30 per cent of cases, researchers say.

    About 7,500 people worldwide are newly infected
    with HIV every day [AFP]

    "It is the first demonstration that a vaccine against HIV can protect against infection."

    The vaccine was effectively a combination of two older vaccines that had not cut infection on their own.

    'Cautious optimism'

    Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he was pleased by the results but cautioned that this was "not the end of the road".

    hiv/aids in focus
      South Africa's healthcare challenges
      Drug deficits threaten HIV patients
      Islamic agencies tackle HIV stigma
      Ban Ki-moon on World Aids Day
      Guatemala grapples with Aids
      Indian advert breaks condom taboo
    "It gives me cautious optimism about the possibility of improving this result," he said.

    Although the vaccine only proved effective in 31 per cent of cases, such a cut in the rate of infection could have a dramatic impact on the spread of the disease.

    About 7,500 people worldwide are newly infected with HIV every day and two million people died of Aids in 2007, according to the UNAids agency. An estimated 25 million people have died since the virus was discovered in the 1980s.

    "Today marks an historic milestone," Mitchell Warren, the executive director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, an international group that has worked toward develping a vaccine.

    "It will take time and resources to fully analyse and understand the data, but there is little doubt that this finding will energise and redirect the Aids vaccine field."

    Thai strain

    But scientists also cautioned that the vaccine had only been tested on strains of HIV common in Thailand. Whether such a vaccine would work against other strains in the US, Africa or elsewhere in the world is unknown.

    The vaccine was also found to have no effect on the virus once it is in the body. Patients who became infected had the same amount of the virus in their blood and a similar amount of damage to their immune systems despite having the vaccine.

    "Further research will be required so that the products can be developed and later on licenced," Saladin Osmanov, a co-ordinator with the World Health Organisation and the UN's programme for HIV/Aids vaccine initiative, said.

    "But the important thing to say is that even when the vaccine is available, given the low level of efficacy ... these types of vaccines will have to be used as a complimentary tool with other prevention programmes," he told Al Jazeera.

    Before the trial began, the US Food and Drug Administration said other studies would be needed before the vaccine could be considered for US licensing.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    Interactive: Coding like a girl

    What obstacles do young women in technology have to overcome to achieve their dreams? Play this retro game to find out.

    Heron Gate mass eviction: 'We never expected this in Canada'

    Hundreds face mass eviction in Canada's capital

    About 150 homes in one of Ottawa's most diverse and affordable communities are expected to be torn down in coming months

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    I remember the day … I designed the Nigerian flag

    In 1959, a year before Nigeria's independence, a 23-year-old student helped colour the country's identity.