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The study was led by the IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute and the Fight AIDS Foundation
A clinical trial on a therapeutic HIV vaccine has proven, for the first time ever, that in some cases the immune system of people infected with HIV can be reeducated to control the virus for long periods of time without taking antiretroviral treatment.
The study –led by the IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute, promoted jointly by the “la Caixa” Foundation and the Catalan Ministry of Health, and the Fight AIDS Foundation− is still ongoing. 13 people with HIV have been given a therapeutic vaccine designed by researchers at Oxford University in combination with a drug from pharmaceutical firm Celgene designed to ‘wake up’ latent viruses in the body. After administering the vaccine, 5 of the 13 participants in the trial have stopped treatment (38.5%) and have been controlling the virus for 5, 13, 17, 20 and 27 weeks, respectively.
When a person stops antiretroviral treatment, viral loads in the blood normally rebound during the first 4 weeks. In these 5 patients, small rises in viral load have been seen sporadically but they go back down quickly. “It looks like we managed to both weaken the virus and strengthen the immune system of patients, enabling it to react effectively against the virus’ attempts to rebound,” explains Dr. Beatriz Mothe, associate researcher at IrsiCaixa, physician at the Fight AIDS Foundation and coordinator of the trial.
The goal now is to understand how to boost the efficiency of this strategy to make it more effective in more patients.