Scientists are optimistic, having seen positive results in their goal to come up with a vaccine that will fight AIDS.

AIDS is known to be one of the most deadly diseases in the world.

Johnson & Johnson announced on July 2 that it has collaborated with an international team of experts to conduct a study and test the effectiveness of an HIV vaccine regimen on non-human primates. J&J said results of the preclinical study are now published in the online journal Science.

Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), Crucell Holland BV, one of the Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) and a few other collaborators teamed up to test the HIV vaccine regimen on monkeys and found the vaccine to be effective in half of the primates. The results of the study can further lead to the development of an HIV vaccine suitable for humans.

"We think that there is a very good chance that we'll show efficacy," said J&J's chief scientific officer Paul Stoffels.  He noted that the efficacy in humans is yet to be proven, but is optimistic, even saying that "the stars are aligned" and is hopeful they will see something in humans.

In the experiment, the researchers used a vaccine consisting of two parts: a cold-causing virus smuggling three HIV proteins into the body and pushing the immune system to generate antibodies, and a purified HIV protein booster to enhance the body's response.

Prior to receiving HIV, monkeys used in the experiment received the anti-HIV vaccines. The researchers injected 12 monkeys with the prime vaccine, and another 12 with the prime-boost vaccines. They also vaccinated eight more monkeys with "sham inoculations." Next, the researchers gave all the monkeys six doses of monkey HIV.

Of the 12 monkeys that were injected with the prime vaccine, two remained HIV-free. Of the other 12 that received the prime-boost vaccines, 50 perceint, or six, were HIV-free. Of the 8 that received a placebo, none turned out to be HIV-free.

The six doses of HIV that each monkey was given are 100 times more infectious than the normal human HIV. The researchers further extracted blood from the monkeys that resisted HIV and gave them to new monkeys who later on did not get infected.

"We do not know for sure whether a vaccine that protects in monkeys will in fact protect in humans," said Dr. Dan Barouch from Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Ragon Institute at Harvard, MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital, the study's lead researcher. However, like Stoffels, he is positive that this vaccine can. 

Photo: Joe Flintham | Flickr

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