Oct 15, 2001
I have been reading on the web a number of different reports regarding DNA VACCINES and a vaccine called ALVAC. How can these items help people who are HIV positive?
Thank you Staten Island NY
Response from Dr. Pavia
Hi there in Staten Island,
This has been the most encouraging year yet in vaccine development. There has been good, but preliminary news on vaccines that are based on DNA, as well as what are called "vectored vaccines" meaning another modified virus is used to deliver the HIV genes that you want to develop immunity against. Alvac is a vectored vaccine, based on a canary pox virus that does not cause illness in humans.
These vaccines, in general, are being investigated for two uses. The first is as a protective vaccine, which is for people who are not infected to prevent infection. The second is as a therapeutic vaccine, that would potentially boost the ability of an HIV infected person to control the virus using their immune system, probably after using antiviral drugs for a while to allow the immune system to rebuild.
All of these vaccines have a long ways to go for either approach to work. The good news is several fold:
-We have seen a lot more committment and research in the vacine area.
-We have some new ways of measuring the immune response in humans who are vaccinated.
-We have seen some promising results in monkey experiments.
All of this is good news, but remember that it will take time, and there will be setbacks along the way. Science moves step by step. The news makes it sound like one breakthrough after another, which just is not the way it works most of the time.
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