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Now the aim of scientists at Barcelona’s Hospital Clínic is to achieve a functional cure so that patients can stop taking antiretroviral drugs, which is a very costly therapy.
A group of researchers from Hospital Clínic-IDIBAPS in Barcelona has created a new therapeutic vaccine that reduces the HIV viral load in blood by 90% for one year. These findings were discovered under the HIVACAT program, which is co-directed by Dr. Josep M. Gatell of IDIBAPS-Hospital Clínic and Dr. Bonaventura Clotet of IrsiCaixa, and the principal authors of which are Dr. Felipe García, Dr. Montserrat Plana and Dr. Teresa Gallart.
Although there are other scientists also working to find a therapeutic vaccine, this one has shown the most promising development. The results obtained from a study of 36 patients were published yesterday in the journal Science Translational Medicine. "It is a vaccine based on dendritic cells, which are professional cells that present antigens to the immune system, and has been shown to be safe and well-tolerated by patients," commented Dr. Felipe García.
The vaccine won’t be able to be marketed, but it does open up a path for additional studies seeking out a functional cure that could substitute combined antiretroviral therapy (cART), which patients must continue taking indefinitely, with toxic long-term side effects and high costs for the public administration. "This is why we need to collaborate with different groups around the world," said García.
Patients with a functional cure would be carriers of the virus at undetectable levels, so that prevention measures would still be necessary although risk of transmission would be minimized.
HIVACAT will host the 2013 AIDS Vaccine congress, the most prestigious event focusing exclusively on research into an HIV vaccine, which will be held in Barcelona this year.
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