Recent research published in the academic journal The Lancet looked at the efficacy of a new HIV vaccine that would prevent individuals from acquiring HIV. Unlike previous vaccines that have attempted to provide an immune response against a specific strain of HIV, this “mosaic” vaccine is made up of pieces from different HIV viruses. The hope is that the vaccine would prevent against a number of strains found across the globe.
In the study, the vaccine treatment produced an anti-HIV immune system response in tests on 393 people.
While promising, these results should be interpreted with caution. While an anti-HIV immune system response was seen in the study’s participants, this does not guarentee that the vaccine would actually protect against the transmission of HIV if they were more directly exposed to the virus.
Additionally, side-effects were less than ideal, and significantly more intense than taking PrEP. Rates of mild to moderate side effects included headache and fatigue. In five people, dizziness, diarrhea, and back pain were among the most severe symptoms.
The research paper also reported that nearly 400 uninfected monkeys produced an immune response against the vaccine and tolerated it well. In the monkeys, roughly two-thirds were protected against the closely related SHIV infection.
In the following stages of the trial, the researchers will test the vaccine on 2,600 women in southern Africa who are at high risk of acquiring HIV.