New progresses for infant HIV vaccine development

24 September 2014
An HIV ribbon

Researchers at Duke University recently announced that they might have found a breakthrough in the development of an HIV vaccine for infants. After reanalysing findings from two historic paediatric HIV vaccine trials performed in the 1990s, evidence was found that it might be possible to develop a vaccine to prevent HIV transmission form mother-to-child during breastfeeding.

The research team discovered that in the original clinical trials, key antibodies that can protect children from the transmission of HIV through breastfeeding were overlooked. They found that 50 percent of the breastfeeding children in the trial developed protective antibodies when injected with the vaccine. The late discovery has been attributed to new insights into the effect of adult vaccines and the body’s immune response against HIV. When the trial was conducted 20 years ago, the specific antibody response was unknown, and therefore not measured.

Developing an HIV prevention vaccine for use in infants is an important pursuit, as an estimated 260,000 babies worldwide contract the HIV virus from their mothers each year, many from breastfeeding. For developing countries, the potential of this vaccine is particularly good, as breastfeeding is often the only option for mothers to feed their child.

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