HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, can progress to the end stage and lead to the development of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) and severely weaken the body. There are treatments available that, unfortunately, do not cure the patient of the disease but can reduce the progression of the virus in the body and thus allow the patient to live longer.
However, there is good news as the US biotech company Moderna has just announced the start of clinical trials to test an HIV vaccine. The technology used is messenger RNA, similar to the one used in Spikevax the vaccine used against Covid-19. Although RNA is considered an innovation, it is a process that has been around since the 1960s, according. However, the coronavirus pandemic brought the technology to the forefront, thanks in part to the global mobilization of scientists and pharmaceutical companies.
To analyze the vaccine’s immune response and assess its safety, Moderna is recruiting 56 healthy, HIV-uninfected participants between the ages of 18 and 50. The phase 1 study is expected to end on May 1, 2023. During the study, which will be conducted under close medical supervision, researchers will monitor the levels of antibodies produced, adjust the dose of the candidate vaccine, and determine the frequency of administration for future phases or other studies. As a reminder, the vaccine can only be brought to market if it has passed Phase 3 clinical trials.
AIDS has caused millions of deaths worldwide
According to the CDC in 2019 an estimated 1,189,700 million people aged 13 and older, were living with the disease, which destroys the immune system. Worldwide, more than 33 million people have died of AIDS and nearly 37 million people are living with the disease. Moderna hopes the vaccine will be effective, particularly in protecting younger people who may be more exposed to the virus, which is spread primarily through sexual contact, as well as through blood. In addition, according to the company, AIDS “represents a significant financial burden,” estimated to be in the billions. Hopes are therefore high for a vaccine against this retrovirus, and messenger RNA technology could prove effective, especially against the new strains that have already mutated multiple times.
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