New vaccine may make life better for HIV patients
Today's medicines make it possible for individuals with HIV to live longer and with more quality of life than ever before. More encouragingly, scientists are constantly developing newer, improved treatments for the notoriously difficult-to-treat virus.
One example is a new development by researchers at Antwerp Institute of Tropical Medicine, which uses an HIV patient's own immune cells to help keep viral loads low.
Researchers recently tested their new treatment in six seropositive volunteers with promising results. Essentially, the vaccine is made from HIV-infected individuals' dendritic cells, which are loaded with genetic instructions of the virus and frozen. The study authors administered the treated cells to participants once each week for a month, and found that the treatment resulted in a better immune response to HIV with no side effects.
Previously, the vaccine was shown to be effective in a cell model, as loaded dendritic cells helped activate "battle cells," also known as CD8 cells.
However, the researchers noted that HIV remains incurable, as the virus is quite good at evolving quickly enough to evade treatment. They said that in experiments with the new treatment, the virus changed its proteins as fast as the medication was administered, allowing viruses to survive attacks by the immune system.
Authors of the study report that their findings should inspire hope for a cure or effective vaccine against HIV and AIDS, as the vaccine was admittedly limited in its efficacy, but nonetheless demonstrated a positive impact with no side effects.
The best way to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) is by practicing abstinence or monogamous sex. However, individuals can significantly reduce their risk of becoming infected by using condoms properly and getting tested for STDs regularly.