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An essential clinical trial for a promising HIV vaccine just ended in failure

Janssen, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, said on Wednesday that the ineffectiveness of the HIV vaccine that had electrified the globe by progressing to a late-stage study.

The HIV virus cannot be vaccinated against. About 3,900 men who have sex with men and transgender people participated in the safety trial for Janssen’s candidate vaccine, which was the only vaccine currently being studied in a late-stage clinical trial. However, it did not prove any more successful than a placebo in halting new HIV infections.

Prosecutors in Argentina, Brazil, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Poland, Spain, and the United States began their trial in 2019. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the United States Army Medical Research and Development Command, and the HIV Vaccine Trials Network collaborated with Janssen on this study.

Dr. Susan Buchbinder, HVTN co-chair of the study and director of Bridge HIV at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, said in a press release, “For our research partners and others who have waged a decades-long effort to develop vaccines to end the HIV/AIDS pandemic, these results are disappointing.” Although HIV remains unusually difficult for vaccine development, the HIV research community is totally devoted to the task, and each new study puts us closer to the goal.

In order to address the wide range of HIV strains, the vaccine candidate in this study was referred to as a “mosaic” vaccine, thus the study’s name. According to NBC, the failure of this vaccination wasn’t completely unexpected because it had previously failed in a trial involving women.

Next steps?

WHO estimates that 38 million people throughout the world are infected with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). Without proper medical attention, the HIV infection can destroy a person’s immune system and ultimately cause death. However, with to advances in medicine, those who become infected can now begin treatment and go on to have a somewhat “normal” existence while taking drugs designed to render the virus undetectable in their systems. Medication for pre-exposure prevention (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) are further instruments in the fight against the virus.

The mosaic vaccine was significant because its effectiveness was being evaluated in a phase 3 study. This is the final stage of research. It is too soon to tell how successful alternative vaccines will be, even though they may use mRNA technology like Moderna’s.

According to the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, the difference in human immune systems’ reactions to HIV and other viruses is one of the major obstacles to developing an effective vaccine against HIV: Our immune systems are useless in detecting the virus. Furthermore, the HIV virus rapidly replicates and adapts to new environments.

To protect against a virus, vaccinations work similarly to natural infections, prompting the body to produce antibodies and launch an assault. According to the institute’s findings, however, human immune system doesn’t see HIV as a threat in the same way that it does other viruses like smallpox and polio.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, who served as head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) during the 1980s AIDS epidemic and who retired from government service in December, told NBC that the newest trial failure was “disappointing,” but that there is still hope in that sector.

I don’t think people should abandon up on the field of the HIV vaccine,” Fauci told the journal.