Vaccine hope for HIV patients

The vaccine (bottom left) working on the HIV virus
The vaccine (bottom left) working on the HIV virus

PATIENTS in Sheffield have taken part in a medical trial that could lead to the development of the world’s first vaccine against HIV.

HIV-positive volunteers at the Royal Hallamshire Hospital trialled a vaccine that within three years could be used to prevent people becoming infected at all.

The Hallamshire was one of six centres in the country which took part in the 55-patient trial.

Now the results have shown that the vaccine has a significant impact on viral count in people with HIV - meaning it could be used to treat HIV-positive patients, and possibly to prevent infection.

Dr Christine Bowman, clinical director for communicable diseases at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust, said: “These are certainly very encouraging results and we are delighted to have been able to contribute to this study.

“HIV is an extremely serious pandemic and it is very important we look for a viable vaccine.

“It has proven very difficult to develop a vaccine in the past because the virus constantly mutates.

“However, this new vaccine targets only the parts of the virus that remain constant across all strains, meaning it could be effective in treating HIV-positive patients.

“In addition, if a future trial is successful, it is possible the vaccine could be used to help prevent people from becoming infected in the first place.”

The trial, run by biopharmaceutical company SEEK, showed a 90 per cent difference in viral count between volunteers who received the vaccine and those who received a placebo.

Gregory Stoloff, CEO of SEEK, said: “This is the first time ever that an HIV vaccine has shown such a meaningful result in a human clinical trial.

“The next step will be to progress this to final human trials and determine the optimum dose and dosing regime to further enhance the vaccine’s efficacy.”

Since the vaccine is made synthetically, it will be relatively cheap to produce and can be manufactured quickly in large quantities.

Final human trials are due to be carried out next year.

If they prove successful, the vaccine could be available to patients in three to five years.