AFP Examines Recent HIV Vaccine Findings

Agence France-Presse examines how two recent studies have “boosted morale” among HIV vaccine researchers who have struggled for decades to develop a viable vaccine to protect people from the virus. “On September 3, researchers in the United States discovered two potent antibodies — the frontline troops in the immune system — that expose what may prove to be a viral Achilles’ heel,” the news service writes.

More recently, the full analysis of the HIV vaccine clinical trial in Thailand found potential benefit in ALVAC/AIDSVAX – an experimental HIV vaccine. “ALVAC/AIDSVAX is not in itself the answer,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci said. “It’s a start on the road to a vaccine, whereas, before, we didn’t even know where the road was.”

“There’s a lot of excitement,” Seth Berkley, head of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), said. “You’ve got the first data about protection. You’ve also got extremely potent antibodies that are showing new targets and there’s a lot more of that coming, that field’s exploding right now.”

“French scientist Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who co-won the 2008 Nobel Prize for Medicine, cautioned that a vaccine breakthrough still depended on answering fundamental questions about HIV and the pathways of infection,” the news service writes. “With vaccines, ‘you are only looking for a single piece of the jigsaw puzzle. A single piece never gives you the whole picture. It’s all the pieces of the puzzle put together that give the answer,'” he said (Ingham, 10/21).