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HIV vaccine getting closer

HealthBy Sunday World
HIV vaccine getting closer

An HIV vaccine is looking closer to becoming a reality following a scientific breakthrough.

A group of monkeys were given the injection and then exposed to a virus which effects the animals in the same way HIV does humans. 50 per cent of them didn't become infected, and it's being touted as a landmark discovery.

Thanks to this, Johnson & Johnson has started testing the vaccine on humans. 400 healthy people from East Africa, South Africa, America and Thailand have volunteered to be involved, marking the first time since 2007 that a pharmaceutical company has sponsored such a trial.

Dr Dan Barouch is a vaccine researcher at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT and Harvard, and he is working with people at Johnson & Johnson on two studies.

The first step sees people having their immune system prepared by using a weak version of a cold virus to get HIV into the body, then they are injected with a substance which should make the body's immune system react fiercely.

The virus the monkeys were given was so strong that all of those which weren't vaccinated developed the disease. The point of it was to test how far the injection would go in guarding against the virus, but despite the infection being so powerful 50 per cent of the animals who got the jab stayed healthy. Given that the rate of infection to exposure was 100 times what usually happens with humans, this was a huge breakthrough.

It's hoped that it will be even better at guarding humans against infection.

The study was published in the journal Science and if everything goes well a stage two trial could take place within two years.

It's thought a vaccine is the best way to get rid of HIV, which has killed 40 million around the globe.

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