First “promising” result for a messenger RNA vaccine against AIDS

A vaccine using messenger RNA technology, which is similar to some vaccines against COVID-19 but this time against AIDS, has shown promising results in animals.

A vaccine using messenger RNA technology, which is similar to some vaccines against COVID-19 but this time against AIDS, has promised first results in animals, researchers announced this Thursday, December 9. The vaccine was shown to be safe when given to macaques, and the risk of infection was reduced by 79% by exposure. However, it demands improvement before it can be tested on humans.

“Despite nearly four decades of efforts by the global scientific community, an effective vaccine to prevent HIV remains an elusive target,” said immunologist Anthony Fauci, study co-author and White House adviser on the health crisis.

“A promising approach”

Director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD) said, “This experimental messenger RNA vaccine combines several features that may overcome the failures of other experimental HIV vaccines, and thus represents a promising approach.” “

Scientists at this institute have done this in collaboration with researchers from the American company Moderna, behind one of the most widely used vaccines against Kovid-19. The study was published Thursday in the prestigious journal Nature.

The vaccine was first tested on mice and then on rhesus macaques. These received several booster doses over a period of one year. Despite the high dose of messenger RNA, the product was well tolerated, causing moderate side effects, such as a temporary decrease in appetite.

By the 58th week, all macaques had developed detectable antibody levels. From 60 weeks on, animals were exposed to the virus weekly through the rectal mucosa. Because primates are not sensitive to HIV-1, which infects humans, the researchers used a different but similar virus, simian HIV (SHIV).

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After 13 weeks, only two of the seven immunized macaques were uninfected. But while other uninfected macaques developed the disease after about three weeks, those that were immunized took an average of eight weeks.

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“This level of risk reduction could have a significant impact on viral transmission,” the study said. The vaccine works by giving the body a genetic instruction to make two proteins that characterize the virus. These are then assembled to form pseudoviral particles (VLPs), eliciting an immune system response mimicking an infection.

However, the scientists noted that antibody levels were relatively low, and that a vaccine requiring multiple injections would be difficult to implement in humans. Thus they want to improve the quality and quantity of VLPs generated before testing the vaccine on humans.

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