Currently, there is not a vaccine for the AIDS virus, but things have been progressing toward an effective one for many years. An AIDS vaccine can be effective in two ways. Hopefully we can come up with a vaccine to prevent or delay illness in those already infected. A preventative vaccine is a substance introduced into the human body that teaches the immune system to detect and destroy a pathogen. Another way would be through a therapeutic vaccine to prevent or delay illness in those already infected. The basic idea behind all AIDS vaccines is to encourage the human immune system to fight the virus.
Early vaccine research focused on teaching the immune system to produce antibodies that would block the virus from entering human cells. However, products designed to work this way failed in clinical trials because the antibodies worked only against lab-cultured HIV, not against the strains of the virus. Research has found that a small number of HIV infected people produce broadly neutralizing antibodies to HIV. Those antibodies neutralize a high percentage of the different types of HIV. These antibodies are now the basis for new research into vaccine development.
There are several reasons that developing a vaccine is a difficult challenge for scientists. Currently no one has yet to recover from an HIV infection, so there is not a natural mechanism to imitate in a vaccine. Soon after being infected, HIV inserts its genetic material into human cells, where it remains hidden from the immune system. HIV also occurs in different forms and is constantly changing, meaning that HIV is highly variable. Another reason is that there aren’t any good animal models to use in experiments for testing, except for the new research conducted by scientists located in Oregon.
There have been recent developments from scientists at Oregon Health ; Science University in developing an AIDS vaccine in Rhesus monkeys. The scientists discuss cytomegalovirus, or CMV, which they claim most people become infected with during their childhoods. This virus persists in its human hosts for life without causing harm and they theorize that it may be an answer to help find a vaccine for the AIDS virus. “Using CMV as a vehicle may overcome the hurdles in discovering a vaccine for the virus.
In the study, vaccinated monkeys kept a protective force of killer T-cells in circulation. ‘Because CMV persists and constantly stimulates the immune system, it maintains combat readiness’, claims Louis Picker, a scientist at OSHU’s Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute and Oregon National Primate Research Center in Hillsboro, Oregon. ” (Rojas-Burke). The basic idea of using CMV is that it remains in our system for life, which means that it could be used as a vaccine carrier and produce lifelong immunity to the AIDS virus. It keeps large numbers of immune system soldiers out at the frontlines all the time, basically for life, waiting for that pathogen invasion, and it catches HIV early when it’s still weak,” says Picker. He is still looking at ways to alter the virus to limit its ability to replicate in people, which he figures will take three years of work to make a vaccine candidate ready for human clinical trials. (Rojas-Burke). There is still hope though in finding a vaccine for the virus, since we know that it took many years to develop one for other diseases, such as polio.
People remain healthy for several years after becoming infected with HIV. In addition, neutralizing antibodies that have been found among a minority of people suggest that the immune system can be effective in controlling HIV. Aderem, A. (2011). Fast Track to Vaccines. Scientific American, 304(5), 66-71. Retrieved from EBSCOhost Munier, C. , Andersen, C. R. , & Kelleher, A. D. (2011). HIV Vaccines: Progress to Date. Drugs, 71(4), 387-414. Retrieved from EBSCOhost Rojas-Burke, Joe. “An AIDS Vaccine Developed by Oregon Scientists Stops Infections in an Animal Model. ” The Oregonian 11 May 2011. Web. 16 Aug. 2011.