New Ingredients for an HIV Cure

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Eradicating a Monkey Virus


An HIV vaccine candidate developed by the Oregon Health and Science University and tested on monkeys could hold the key to unlocking a cure for humans. Researchers administered the experimental HIV vaccine on a population of monkeys infected with SIV, a related virus found in primates, and discovered that 50 percent of their subjects no longer tested positive.

In developing the vaccine, researchers modified cytomegalovirus, a member of the herpesvirus family, in order to reprogram the body’s immune system to find and destroy SIV. In more than half of cases, the virus was “banished from the host,” said OHSU researcher Louis Picker, MD.

“Through this method we were able to teach the monkey’s body to better ‘prepare its defenses’ to combat the disease,” Picker said.

Although the results of the simian tests were promising, Picker said it is still too soon to celebrate. A version of the vaccine would have to be tested on human subjects before it could be widely available, and development of that human version could take up to three years, he said.

Funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the study took place at the OHSU Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute, in collaboration with the Oregon National Primate Research Center. The findings were published in September in the weekly science journal Nature.