Scientists are hopeful that a vaccine against HIV is finally on the way, 35 years after the epidemic began.
Tests showed that a new drug stopped two thirds of monkeys getting infected while also boosting the immune system of around 400 healthy adults.
Just four HIV vaccines have ever been tested on humans, making this current test an ‘important milestone’ according to the international team of scientists from institutions such as Harvard and MIT.
The new vaccine stopped two thirds of monkeys tested from getting infected, leaving scientists hopeful (file photo)
They exposed vaccinated rhesus monkeys to the disease six times and only one third became infected.
In a trial named ‘Imbokodo’, the Zulu word for rock, they have also began testing the new vaccine on 2,600 women in southern Africa.
The women are believed to be at risk of HIV and scientists hope that the trial will bring results by around 2021.
As well as only infecting a third of monkeys tested, the new drug boosted the immune system of 400 healthy adults tested (file photo)
Professor Dan Barouch, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, Boston, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Centre, led the study, according to the Telegraph.
He said: ‘These results represent an important milestone. This study demonstrates that the vaccine candidate induced robust immune responses in humans and monkeys with and also provided 67 per cent protection against viral challenge in monkeys.
‘These results should be interpreted cautiously. We eagerly await the results of the phase 2b Imbokodo’, which will determine whether or not this vaccine will protect humans against acquiring HIV.’
Scientists recruited 393 healthy adults between the age of 18 and 50 from clinics in east Africa, South Africa, Thailand, and the USA between February 2015 and October 2015.
They were randomly assigned one of seven vaccine combinations or a placebo, before being given four vaccinations over the course of 48 weeks.
They have also begun to test the new drug on 2,600 women ‘at risk’ in southern Africa and hope to get results by 2021
The hope is that the new drug can be a universal vaccine as it is made from several different HIV viruses.
On the other hand, previous vaccines have been limited to specific regions of the world.
The tests revealed that all vaccines tested were capable of generating anti-HIV immune responses in healthy individuals.
According to Avert, the UK has an estimated 89,400 people living with HIV.
Alarmingly, there is evidence that awareness and knowledge around HIV is dropping in the UK.
A recent survey found that only 45% of the population could correctly identify all the ways in which HIV is and isn’t transmitted.
The disease is most prevalent in London with 40 per cent of those diagnosed living in the capital. Nearly one in 50 people living in the borough of Lambeth has the disease.
Around 37 million are carrying HIV around the world with only half getting the drugs they require.
Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘It’s still very early days for this HIV vaccine, but the signs are promising and very few trials progress to testing in humans who are at risk of HIV.’
The study results were published in The Lancet. The trial is sponsored by Janssen Vaccines & Prevention, part of Johnson & Johnson.