Vaccine candidate gives ‘interesting immune response’

An experimental preventive HIV vaccine has just completed phases 1 and 2, is well tolerated and gives an immune response on vaccinated volunteers. A real hope in the fight against this virus.

“We have just passed a crucial phase,” announces immunologist Yves Lévy, director of the Institute for Vaccine Research, in The Parisian this Tuesday, about ongoing trials for a preventive HIV vaccine. After eight years of testing, “we’re past stage 1-2,” she said.

The immunologist explains that three doses of the experimental vaccine were injected into 72 “non-at-risk” volunteers in France and Switzerland, and the one-year follow-up “demonstrates that our vaccine is well tolerated and that it induces a immune system” against HIV. Scientists are therefore ready to move on to phase III.

In this phase, “the trials make it possible to measure the effectiveness of the vaccine, or its impact on the onset of infections. These trials are carried out in the so-called populations at risk”, says the Vaccine Research Institute.

What is special about this vaccine?

This vaccine candidate “is based on the injection of monoclonal antibodies that specifically target the key cells of the immune response, the dendritic cells,” Inserm explained in February 2021 noting that “this is the first time a vaccine has directly targeted these cells.”

“Our injection sends them information directly thanks to a kind of missile, an antibody that targets a receptor on the surface of these cells, on which we have attached virus fragments,” says Yves Lévy.

The results obtained so far show that the body has an immune response to this HIV vaccine, but at the moment it is not clear whether the body will be sufficiently protected from a real infection. This is why “a third phase of testing is needed among populations at risk” of being infected with HIV, says the immunologist.

According to him, Phase III results won’t come for two or three years, and could very well be negative, even after ten years of research.

A difficult virus to fight

Several trials are underway to try to find a vaccine that can prevent you from contracting HIV, or effectively fight the infection in case of contamination, as happens with the flu.

However, the HIV virus is particularly complex, in particular because it mutates very quickly, but also because it attacks the immune system and “integrates itself into the genome, persists in infected people and the natural immune response does not eliminate it”, explains the Sidaction website.

Also recovering in 2021, the HIV test has not yet made up for the delay linked to Covid, a “missed opportunity” for some patients, noted Public Health Francetwo days before World AIDS Day on Thursday.

In 2021 “5,000 people discovered they were HIV positive”, a figure “without a significant increase compared to 2020”, writes SPF.

Salome Vincenton BFMTV journalist

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