Research team develops vaccine that kills HIV in monkeys

A new vaccine technology that eliminated the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in test monkeys has raised hopes for an end to the AIDS pandemic, a research team said.

Yasuhiro Yasutomi, director of the Tsukuba Primate Research Center under the National Institutes of Biomedical Innovation, Health and Nutrition, said the team’s goal is to begin clinical testing on humans within five years.

The research team focused on a bacterium that secretes a substance that strengthens an immune response. A vaccine was created by mixing genes of the bacterium with those of a weakened AIDS-causing virus.

When the vaccine was administered on crab-eating macaques, the animals became infected with HIV, but further tests could not detect the virus, the team said.

The vaccinated macaques were then given a stronger virus that always kills the victim. But the virus disappeared in six of the seven subjects.

Blood and lymph node cells were taken from the six surviving macaques and injected into healthy monkeys. Four of the subjects were found free of the virus.

The research team plans to create vaccines by using HIV removed from patients undergoing drug treatment. The hope is that these vaccines can be used as another treatment method.

AIDS is one of the three most prevalent infectious diseases in the world. About 37.7 million people globally are infected with HIV, including about 20,000 in Japan.

While AIDS is no longer a fatal disease as long as drug treatment is continued, the medicines currently available do not kill the virus.

The continual use of such drugs over a long period of time is not only expensive but could also produce side effects as well as create a drug-tolerant virus.

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