A couple years ago, no one would have guessed researchers would be on the brink of discovering a cure for one of the most fatal immune conditions: HIV, which causes AIDS. Yet scientists have created a vaccine that is quite promising. Though there is definitely more progress to be made, the vaccine is already 30 percent effective, according to Reuters.
Understandably, it seems that with so much research in the past several years, researchers should have at least a vaccine that is 50 percent effective. However, the human immunodeficiency virus is very elusive and complex. There are several reasons why the creation of a vaccine is difficult, according to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
For one, HIV attacks two types of cells that are important in the functioning of the immune system. Unfortunately, the vaccine needs these two cells to respond in order to work, but they are in the process of being attacked and obliterated by HIV. According to NIAID, HIV also “continually mutates and recombines to evolve into new strains of virus that differ slightly from the original infecting virus.” Obviously, it would be difficult to create a vaccine that protects against a variety of strains.
After the current vaccine breakthrough, scientists are still reportedly working hard at improving the effectiveness. According to Reuters, scientists are still not sure why the recent vaccine was more effective. The trial included 16,000 heterosexual volunteers in Thailand, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The vaccine is a mix between another vaccine and drug.
On another note, the Los Angeles Times reported in the beginning of September that other researchers have found two antibodies that can prevent the multiplication of HIV in the body and the production of severe disease. Though there isn’t a vaccine, the future is hopeful, since the antibodies were found to be effective for many strains of the virus. For your information, these antibodies cannot prevent the progression of AIDS, but it seems that it could prevent the infection in the first place. Or the antibodies could just slow the progression down.