November 18, 2002
The first trial of the so-called "global vaccine" -- a single vaccine designed to prevent infection with the three most common forms of HIV -- was launched Thursday by the National Institutes of Health under the supervision of the Vaccine Research Center.
The trial vaccine incorporates parts of four different HIV genes. These are drawn from subtype B, which is the most prevalent form of HIV in North America and Western Europe, as well as subtypes A and C, which are the most common types in Africa and Asia. The three types, or clades, account for about 90 percent of HIV infections worldwide.
"The idea behind this global vaccine candidate is to broaden the coverage of the vaccine," said VRC Director Dr. Gary Nabel. Early lab tests with animals have shown that immune response to any single HIV type was not diminished by combining protection against all three major types.
In the trial's first phase, 50 healthy, HIV-negative volunteers ages 18 to 40 will receive multiple inoculations with either the test vaccine or a saline solution placebo over the course of one year. Nabel and colleagues expressed confidence that the vaccine is completely safe, whether or not it proves effective over time. "Everyone who comes into this trial gets counseling about avoiding risk, because there's no proof yet that this vaccine will protect them."
Even if all goes well throughout the clinical trial, the vaccine will not become available to the public for at least five years from now, Nabel said.
11.14.02; Alan Mozes