Therapeutic Vaccine for HIV

Therapeutic Vaccine for HIV

Unlike most vaccines, which are designed to
prevent infections, a therapeutic vaccine is designed to treat an infection that a person
already has. Dr. Michael Sneller and his colleagues at
the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases are studying whether a therapeutic
vaccine can help treat HIV infection. “We’re hoping that this vaccine or series
of vaccines will boost the individuals’ immune response to the HIV virus such that they might
be able to control the virus without medications.” “It’d be super cool if I didn’t have to take
drugs any more.” “That would be awesome!” “Even to have to get a vaccination once a month
would be way better than having to deal with drugs every day.” “The overall goal is to try to find better
alternatives to daily drug therapy for HIV.” “These drugs are very effective, they’re life-saving,
but many of these medications can have long-term toxicities, and they require that the patient
take medication every day for the rest of their life.” HIV can be suppressed by antiretroviral drugs
to very low levels. When this happens, special HIV-fighting immune
cells decrease in number because the immune system thinks the virus is gone. A therapeutic vaccine would stimulate the
immune system in a way that mimics active HIV infection while antiretroviral medication
keeps the real virus suppressed. This strategy could create an army of HIV-fighting
immune cells. These immune cells could then attack HIV-infected
cells, controlling the virus in the absence of antiretroviral drugs. HIV-infected volunteers come to the NIH Clinical
Center in Bethesda, Maryland to receive either the investigational therapeutic vaccines or
salt-water injections called a placebo. No one knows who gets the vaccines and who
gets the placebo. The clinical trial has two goals. The first is to learn if the vaccine is safe
in people with HIV. “We’ll compare the side effects that we see
in patients who receive the vaccine with those who received the salt-water placebo.” “By doing this, we’ll be able to get a pretty
good idea of the overall safety of the vaccine.” The second goal is to learn if the vaccine
regimen allows the immune system to control HIV without medication. “After the subjects have completed their series
of injections of either placebo or vaccine, we will—under very controlled circumstances—stop
their antiretroviral medications and determine if the virus again becomes detectable in the
blood.” The reappearance of HIV in the blood is called
viral rebound. “We hope that, in the individuals who receive
the vaccine, that their rebound in viremia will be blunted compared to those who receive placebo.” “Or perhaps, under the best of circumstances,
the individuals who got the vaccine won’t rebound at all.” Volunteers will restart their HIV medications
after 16 weeks, or sooner if the level of HIV in their blood increases too much or their
immune health changes significantly. “If we get positive results in this study,
the next step would be to conduct a much larger trial to confirm the preliminary results that
the vaccine is both safe and effective at controlling the virus in the absence of medications.” “It would be awesome to be able to get a shot
once a year, or once every six months.” “But if this is a stepping stone to that happening
one day, then that’s excellent!”

7 Replies to “Therapeutic Vaccine for HIV”

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