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Vaccine cuts HIV infection for first time: researchers

Press Trust of India  |  Washington 

In a breakthrough, researchers have for the first time have found a vaccine that cuts HIV infection by more than 31 per cent, giving fresh boost to the global fight against the dreaded disease.

The experimental drug cuts the risk of HIV infection by a third in the world's largest AIDS trial of more than 16,000 volunteers in Thailand, researchers said.

It is the first time after two decades of human trials that a vaccine has stopped the virus infecting 7,500 across the world every day.

"It gives me cautious optimism about the possibility of improving this result and developing a more effective AIDS vaccine," Anthony Fauci, director of the United States National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was quoted by Washington Post.

Colonel Jerome Kim, led the study for the US Army, which was also involved in the trial, said, "It is the first evidence that we could have a safe and effective preventive vaccine."

The vaccine, a complicated mixture of six "prime" and "booster" shots, is the first positive result after two decades of experimentation.

"Conceptually, we now know a vaccine is possible," said Fauci, adding, "Whether the vaccine is going to look anything like this one I don't know. But at least we know it can be done."

The trail run for the vaccine for the last six years has been jointly conducted by the US Army, the Thai Ministry of Public Health, NIAID institute, and two other patent holder companies.

The finding is statistically significant with 31.2 per cent effectiveness but scientists seldom consider licensing a vaccine which is less than 70 or 80 per cent effective.

Instead, the chief benefit of the ALVAC-AIDSVAX vaccine is that it can give fresh insights into the human immune system specially when a person is protected from HIV.

"We really need to go through the data to see if there are effects here that are potentially useful," said Kim.

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First Published: Thu, September 24 2009. 16:06 IST