Italian Researcher Close to Human Vaccine Trials

ROME-Italian scientist Barbara Ensoli, MD, said an AIDS vaccine she helped develop is reaching an important stage.

Soon, scientists will begin testing the vaccine on humans. In preliminary tests on monkeys, Ensoli had a 71% success rate.

The Italian vaccine is different from others under the microscope because it has been designed to attack the virus from growing in the body. Other vaccines in development are focusing on boosting the immune system against the virus.

Ensoli is focusing on a key aspect of the virus, the TAT protein. She discovered that the TAT protein is responsible for the virus taking root and is released by cells after infection. By controlling this protein, Ensoli hopes to prevent virus replication.

For HIV positive patients, the vaccine should also work to block virus replication.

HIV remains a difficult virus to control because of its ability to adapt and change between geographical areas, from person to person, or even within the same person. There is no specific envelope protein to attack, as in other viral vaccinations.

Ensoli hopes her vaccine will work against all strains of HIV. She is currently researching infected individuals from Italy, Uganda, and South Africa who are infected with different strains. Yet, Ensoli says each strain has the same TAT protein.

The first stage of human testing, scheduled to begin this summer, will last six months, with six months following to study the results.

The Italian doctor says she dos not expect the vaccine to be available publicly for five to seven years.

More than 21 million people have died form AIDS. There are 36 million people infected today, with more than 25 million of those living in sub-Saharan Africa.

Information from Reuters