Some patients' immune systems respond to experimental vaccine therapy
Patients with HIV who get vaccinated with a disabled version of the virus can, in many cases, fight the real one to a draw. A new study shows that injecting heat-inactivated HIV can awaken immune protection in some patients, limiting their need for drugs for weeks or months. While the effects appear temporary, the approach might eventually lead to a way to control HIV over the long-term.
The immune system is understaffed in the fight against HIV, largely because the virus targets the very immune T cells that coordinate defense against the virus. Efforts to alert these and other immune forces to the presence of HIV in already infected patients through vaccination have produced mixed results.
The new study, published January 2 in Science Translational Medicine, reports on an approach that can lower virus levels substantially. Using blood samples from 36 patients, researchers extracted each person’s HIV and a sampling of immune system cells called