A vaccine beat the equivalent of HIV in monkeys nine out of sixteen times, in a finding that could be a step towards a cure of one of the world’s most destructive viruses. The scientists behind the potential HIV vaccine say that they now want to move on to trials with humans. The findings, published in the journal Nature, show that over time, the monkeys infected with HIV (or actually SIV—Simian Immunodeficiency Virus), slowly beat the virus, and over a timescale of months, SIV could no longer be detected in the monkey.
Louis Picker of the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health and Science University, one of many scientists who contributed to the vaccine experiment, said: "It's always tough to claim eradication - there could always be a cell which we didn't analyze that has the virus in it. But for the most part, with very stringent criteria... there was no virus left in the body of these monkeys."
The vaccine is based on a similar vaccine of the herpes virus—another sexually transmitted disease (STD). Picker, while thrilled with the success of the vaccine, and hopeful that this could lead to an HIV vaccine, said that the scientists are still trying to figure out why it failed in seven of the sixteen monkeys:
"It could be the fact that SIV is so pathogenic that this is the best you are ever going to get,” he said. “There is a battle going on, and half the time the vaccine wins and half the time it doesn't.”
Still, that’s 50% more often than is currently the case for people with HIV, who sometimes successfully contain the virus, but never fully destroy it.