A vaccine for HIV could be just a decade away, according to scientists who have made the most significant finding in HIV research for 15 years.
Scientists last week announced the discovery of two new antibodies that have the potential to fight all variations of the virus.
The antibodies target a specific area of the virus, possibly indicating an Achilles heel for scientists to exploit. They also appear to attack at a point on the virus which remains constant through mutations — making the potential for use far-reaching.
The research seems promising, though it should be met with cautious optimism, according to AFAO’s CEO Don Baxter.
“In 15 years of vaccine research it’s been 15 years of dashed hopes. This [finding] though is based on new science and new gene technology so I think it is quite different from most of the previous developments for vaccine, so it gives a new platform on which to develop possibly a range of potential vaccines,” Baxter told Sydney Star Observer.
“It could provide the scientific basis for a vaccine, and I think the somewhat promising or hopeful aspect of this one is that it’s potentially a therapeutic vaccine as well as a preventative vaccine — or opens the ground for that development.
“We’ve always had a small number of people who have clearly had HIV who have not suffered significant effects from having it, and scientists have done everything possible to find out what is different about these people and have drawn a blank really up until now.”
International AIDS Vaccine Initiative vice-president Wayne Koff was also optimistic about the research.
“The findings themselves are an exciting advance toward the goal of an effective AIDS vaccine because now we’ve got a potentially better target on HIV to focus our efforts for vaccine design,” he said.
Baxter was quick to point out that new medical information did not always lead to a vaccine.
“This is still a hypothesis. We have the first study but it needs to be confirmed in other laboratories, although in my view it is certainly much more promising than where we’ve been before,” he said.
It could take up to 10 years to organise human trials, and even then, a number of seemingly promising vaccine potentials have failed when they have moved into human testing.

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