mRNA-Technology HIV Vaccine Tests Have Begun
Phase I clinical trials of an HIV vaccine that uses mRNA technology have begun in the US, further driving efforts to provide a vaccine to battle an ongoing epidemic that has impacted the world for the last four decades.
Biotech firm Moderna and the International AIDS Vaccine initiative announced yesterday the start of this new phase in the development of a vaccine to prevent contraction of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which if not treated can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Although treatments for HIV-positive individuals have evolved, four decades of research have not yet resulted in a vaccine that can successfully prevent its contagion but COVID-19 related scientific approaches have opened new doors for medical developments.
The same mRNA technology utilized for the creation of the record-time developed COVID-19 vaccines has been used to stimulate the production of “broadly neutralizing antibodies,” also known as bnAbs, by the body’s own immune system’s B lymphocytes. These antibodies could successfully prevent the contraction of the HIV variants that continue to circulate. During the Phase I trial, 56 HIV-negative individuals will be injected with an immunogen and a booster immunogen incorporating the groundbreaking mRNA technology developed by IAVI and the Scripps Research Institute.
"Further immunogens will be needed to guide the immune system on this path but this prime-boost combination could be the first key element of an eventual HIV immunization regimen," said David Diemert, lead investigator at one of the trials at George Washington University.
A previous trial for an HIV vaccine last year was unsuccessful but that vaccine did not include mRNA technology. Because of the quickness with which mRNA vaccines can be designed and tested, the new trials have moved forward with promising expectations.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has grabbed the attention of the medical field for the past two years, HIV and HIV-related complications continue to be some of the most pressing health issues communities are facing worldwide. In Mexico, 4,753 people died in 2020 due to HIV-related complications. Rural states with less testing and treatment facilities have the highest death rates for HIV in the country, with Quintana Roo having a 10.25 death rate per 100,000 inhabitants, Colima a 9.40 death rate and Campeche a 7.52 death rate.
The continued HIV epidemic might have worsened the COVID-19 pandemic, as the infamous Omicron variant which has driven waves of infections internationally is believed to have originated through a South African HIV positive individual who was not receiving treatment for HIV. South Africa is facing the biggest HIV epidemic in the world with 7.7 million people living with the virus, about 20 percent of the country’s adult population. But a vaccine could change the development of this epidemic worldwide.