Researchers all over the world are seeking to develop an effective HIV-1 vaccine so as to prevent new cases of HIV-1 infection. Potential vaccines administered to humans in clinical trials were only found to provide partial protection against HIV in one out of six studies.
It was found that antibodies able to prevent cells from being infected with various variants of the virus played an important role in protection against HIV. This knowledge then helped researchers design and test HIV vaccines designed to potentiate these protective responses.
A well-characterised potential HIV vaccine whose development is in an advanced stage has been found to induce a less effective immune response to the virus. It actually seems that the immune response partially undermines the protective immune response, since it impedes the interaction between essential immune cells. In order to circumvent this undesirable response, a component was added to the potential vaccine which causes the interaction between these essential immune cells to be restored, which in turn means that the immune system is capable of a more powerful immune response to the HIV virus.
The interactions between immune cells that occur in rhesus macaques are similar to those occurring in humans. In order to determine whether immunisation using this newly developed vaccine may result in the desired immune response, BPRC-affiliated researchers have tested this newly designed vaccine in rhesus macaques. The information thus obtained will be vital to the administration of the vaccine to humans in clinical trials.
The results of these studies, published in the Journal of Virology, show that, depending on which strategy is adopted, certain structural modifications of the vaccine may cause the antibody response to the HIV virus to be faster and longer-lasting.