Our Best Shot
Dr. Eduardo Fernandez-Cruz is a scientist from Madrid with a passion. He wants to see an end to the AIDS epidemic. Unfortunately, the vaccine he has been testing for the past four years will probably not be developed further, because the small company that makes it needs a lot of money to continue the testing.
Remune, invented by the late Jonas Salk in 1987 in collaboration with Dr. Dennis Carlo of the Immune Response Corporation of San Diego, was tested in Spain for four years on people with HIV. On July 27, 2001, a group of scientists headed up by the internationally respected Dr. Joep Lange, looked at the results of the four-year study of 242 HIV-infected people. They found that those people who got Remune were 37% less likely to fail their medicines than those who did not. This is the first time a vaccine proved it can help the body keep the amount of virus down.
More recently, in March of this year, Peter M. Silvera, PhD, of the Southern Research Institute in Frederick Maryland showed that Remune, when given with a fancy adjuvant called CpG, causes uninfected monkeys to develop two key immune responses against HIV antibody and t-cell responses.
Even more recently, data from the studies of Drs. Eric Rosenberg and Bruce Walker of Massachusetts General Hospital, shows that all of the people in their study who took Remune developed strong anti-HIV immune responses during a planned treatment interruption, while none of the people who only took antiviral medicine developed these responses.
Dr. Fred Valentine of New York University has also tested Remune and shown that it gives infected people new immune responses against HIV.
Taken together, these findings suggest that Remune is a good candidate to test on a large scale as a preventive vaccine, as well as a therapy for HIV.
Unfortunately, without money it won't happen.
Dr. Peter Salk, of the Jonas Salk foundation feels it would be a "significant loss" to not test the vaccine further.
Other vaccines are being developed. But they are either in very early stages of development, or are not showing that they do very much in people. In general, they have big money behind them and unlike Remune, there is no danger of losing the opportunity of seeing how they do.
IAVI, the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative is trying to make a vaccine very similar to Remune. But this vaccine does not yet exist.
Merck, the pharmaceutical giant, is trying to combine two incredibly fancy vaccines, one that is a weak adenovirus that has been taught to imitate some aspects of HIV, the other a so-called "DNA" vaccine in which the genetic material from HIV is put directly into people.
The Merck vaccine has not shown itself to do very much in most people who have taken it. There is a good deal of healthy skepticism about the vaccine, because, lots of people are immune to adenovirus which would probably ruin the vaccine for them. And the DNA vaccine has not shown itself to have much power. It is reasonable to assume Remune will give most people who take it responses against HIV while less than half of the people who have taken the Merck vaccine have had any response to it.
Remune, unlike the possible vaccines of the future, is here today, has been tested in many people over many years. It is the only vaccine that has proven it helps infected people fight HIV. Therefore, it might protect people from getting AIDS. To not test it as some eight thousand or more people a day are dying of the disease in a world where tens of millions are infected already, is criminal.
There are many reasons why Remune is not being tested. But none of them are good ones. Some people may be annoyed with Jonas Salk or the Immune Response Corporation. Some may think that they know the vaccine won't work. However, in science there are always advocates and nay sayers.
In the end, to not test the only vaccine that has shown it actually affects the body's ability to control the virus in infected people is completely irresponsible.
David Scondras is the founder and chairman of Search For A Cure. Scondras developed the nationally-recognized HIV treatment series, Reasons for Hope.
This article was provided by Search for a Cure. It is a part of the publication Reasons for Hope.