This article originally appeared on VICE India
China will soon start clinical trials to test the Human Immuno Virus (HIV) vaccine with 160 human volunteers. With no known cure for HIV till date, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDCP), in Beijing, has been working on the HIV vaccine since the first trial in 2007, to protect people from the HIV virus. The vaccine is called DNA-rTV and, in this second phase of human trials, is currently known to work on replication of the DNA of HIV in order to trigger the immunisation.
According to the World Health Organisation, the HIV virus has afflicted close to 36.9 million people globally, with over 2.1 million reported cases in India alone (making us the country with the third-largest HIV epidemic in the world). However, research around HIV cure has been ongoing for a while now. In the US, a vaccine trial for gay men and trans people is under way, while the University of Nebraska Medical Centre (UNMC) claims to have found a promising cure for HIV. Their breakthrough came early this month when treatment given to mice eliminated HIV infection.
Early last week in China, though, Shao Yiming, the chief HIV researcher at the CCDCP, said that this is the first such HIV vaccine that has entered a second-phase human trial. The vaccine is also based on the one used to prevent smallpox. "With significant reduction of virulence, the vaccine will not cause infection in healthy receivers," Yiming told China Daily. Reports also confirm that the vaccine’s promising impact also stems from the fact that it only contains parts of the virus’ DNA material, which makes the chances of catching an infection significantly low.
During the trial, the injection of the vaccine will lead to the replication of the HIV DNA in the initial phase, which will stimulate the immune system to produce the antibodies. This will lead to the cure that is being envisioned as “stronger and longer lasting”.
The researchers and scientists behind the vaccine are hopeful that if the human trials are successful, it “will determine the course of the procedure to be followed”. “Hopefully, the second-phase trial will be completed in the latter half of 2021, and the third-phase clinical trial may start at the end of that year, which will involve thousands of volunteers in a trial to test the effectiveness of the vaccine to protect people against HIV," the researcher said.
The developments, be it in China or the US, are momentous since, as Dr Michael Dixon of UNMC says, “Eradication [of HIV] is something that we thought was science fiction just a few years ago.”
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