The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). HIV attacks the body’s white blood cells, weakening the immune system and making disease transmission easier. Sexual intercourse, contact with contaminated blood, or transmission from an infected mother to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding are the major ways HIV spreads. There is currently no effective cure. Once people are contaminated by HIV, they have it for life. HIV, on the other hand, may be managed with proper medical care.
HIV-positive people who get effective HIV therapy can live long and healthy lives while maintaining their relationships. Human HIV infection was caused by a sort of chimp in Central Africa. According to research, HIV could have migrated from chimps to people as early as the late 1800s. The chimp variant of the virus is known as the simian immunodeficiency virus. It was most likely transmitted to humans when humans hunted these chimps for meat and came into contact with their diseased blood. AIDS crept slowly over Africa and then to the rest of the world over decades. The virus has been present in the United States since the mid-to late-1970s.
In the United States and South Africa, enrollment in a prospective HIV vaccine candidate trial has commenced. The Phase 1 trial will look at the safety and efficacy of VIR-1388, a novel vaccine that induces an HIV-specific immune response in people. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), a component of the National Institutes of Health, has provided scientific and financial support for this HIV vaccine concept throughout its development and continues to do so.
The vaccine (VIR-1388) aims to instruct the immune system to create T-cells capable of recognizing HIV and signaling an immunological response, thus preventing the virus from causing chronic infection. The vaccine employs a cytomegalovirus (CMV) vector, which means that a weakened version of CMV delivers HIV vaccine material to the immune system without infecting research participants. CMV has been present in many parts of the world’s population for centuries.
Most people who have CMV have no symptoms and are unaware that they have the virus. CMV is detectable in the body for the rest of one’s life, implying that it has the ability to deliver and then safely help the body retain HIV vaccine material for an extended length of time, perhaps overcoming the fading immunity seen with more short-lived vaccine vectors.
The NIAID has been sponsoring the discovery and development of the CMV vaccine vector since 2004 and this trial is being sponsored in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Vir Biotechnology, both of which are based in San Francisco. The trial is sponsored by Vir and is being conducted through the NIAID-funded HIV Vaccine Trials Network (HVTN) as study HVTN 142.
The study (HVTN 142) will enroll 95 HIV-negative patients of six sites in the United States and four in South Africa. Participants will be randomized to one of four trial arms at random: three will receive a different dose of the vaccine, while the fourth will receive a placebo. To ensure participant safety, this study will only include people who have asymptomatic CMV. The initial results are expected in late 2024, and volunteers will be followed for up to three years. Following their first vaccine injection in an optional long-term sub-study.
If the vaccine proves effective, it could be a huge step forward in the fight against the disease. HIV/AIDS is a worldwide pandemic that has claimed the lives of millions. An HIV vaccine would be an effective weapon for decreasing and finally eliminating the epidemic.
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