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How long must we wait?
Nov 8, 2006

Why is it taking so long to make a vaccine?

How long must we wait?

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello How Long Must We Wait,

Research on both preventative and therapeutic vaccines has been ongoing for more than two decades. Unfortunately, despite this effort and the fact there are over two dozen vaccine candidates in clinical trials or development, the reality is that we are still nowhere near an HIV vaccine. The most optimistic estimates would anticipate a vaccine may be ready for prime time in 10 years. The difficultly in developing a preventative vaccine was illustrated in recent reports of an alarming rate of HIV superinfection the acquisition of a second strain of HIV within one to five years of an initial infection in Africa. At the recent World AIDS Conference in Toronto, a study conducted by Dr. Julie Overbaugh was reported involving 57 HIV-positive women in Mombasa, Kenya. Eight of these women (14%) acquired a superinfection. This finding provides additional evidence that natural infection with HIV, which produces neutralizing antibodies and cytolytic ("killer") T-cells is incapable of preventing the acquisition of a second strain of HIV. In virtually all other human diseases for which we have vaccinations, "natural infection" is protective. However, if natural infection with HIV is not protective, it is highly unlikely that preventative vaccines would be helpful because the mechanism of action of preventative vaccines involves the induction of these very immune responses neutralizing antibody, cytotoxic T-cells, etc.

To make matters even more worrisome, these data could have major implications for "serosorters" HIV-positive folks who choose to have sex only with other HIV-positive folks, often assuming this would pose no significant risk.

Stay tuned to The Body. We'll keep you updated on both these evolving stories (vaccine development and risks of "serosorting").

So for now we wait, we hope and we encourage additional research efforts for a preventative vaccine, a therapeutic vaccine and ultimately a cure.

Stay well.

Dr. Bob


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