We hear about developments of HIV vaccine fairly frequently. It is extremely important and world is waiting for an effective protection against the virus. However, there will be no breakthroughs – it is just a long continuous work. Now scientists from the University of Adelaide made some significant progress in testing the basis of the future vaccine.
In short, scientists managed to prove that common cold virus, used to introduce the vaccine to the body, in combination with DNA-based vaccine improves the response of immune system against HIV in the gut and bodily cavities. It is very good news indeed – experiments with mice revealed how in the future first line of defence against HIV at the site of infection could be introduced. In other words, scientists are trying to protect those body areas that are most likely to encounter the virus first, because sexual activity being one of the primary methods of HIV transmission.
In fact, scientists think that previous HIV vaccine efforts have been unsuccessful because of lack of frontline protection. Localized response to the presence of the virus could be the key for such vaccine to work. Experiments themselves, interestingly, were not that complex, as senior author Dr Branka Grubor-Bauk explained: “in mice, we delivered a rhinovirus (or common cold virus) inside the nose, and this virus had been altered to include HIV proteins. At the same time, the mice also received an injection into the skin containing a DNA-based vaccine. This approach resulted in very specific responses in the immune system”.
This system affects white blood cells that attack the HIV virus and specific antibodies that recognise and shut down HIV-positive cells. Importantly, this vaccine also inhibits the Tat effect. Tat is an element of HIV, which is responsible for rapid replication of the virus. Therefore, in the mice that scientists studied HIV was significantly reduced. This means that further testing and development can be started now.
Several universities institutes and other organizations are working around the world to deliver HIV vaccine as soon as possible. However, it seems that complex and extensive efforts of the University of Adelaide are coming really close to the ultimate goal. We will still have to wait many years until HIV vaccine is available.