British Begin Human Testing of H.I.V. Vaccine
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
OXFORD, England, Aug. 31 -- Researchers began clinical trials today with a vaccine aimed at an African strain of H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS.
The vaccine is the first specifically designed to combat the Clade A H.I.V.-1 virus, the most prevalent strain in many parts of Africa.
Eighteen people volunteered to receive injections of the vaccine at Churchill Hospital in Oxford.
If the tests are successful, trials will begin in Nairobi, Kenya, within six months, according to the Medical Research Council, a government-funded national research organization.
The hope is that the vaccine will stimulate the body to produce killer T-cells that will destroy H.I.V.-infected cells fast enough to stop an infection from taking hold, the council said. If this trial is successful, it will be possible to conduct trials in volunteers who have a high risk of H.I.V. infection, the council added.
More information on the tests, the Oxford AIDS Vaccine Initiative, is on the Web at www.oxavi.org.
Prof. Andrew McMichael, director of the council's human immunology unit, said it would be three to five years before researchers would have a clear indication whether the vaccine might work. After that, it might take another five years to complete development.
The trial, announced in July at the International Conference on AIDS in Durban, South Africa, is sponsored by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, a global scientific organization, and supervised by the immunology unit of the Medical Research Council.
Dr. Seth Berkely, president of the international vaccine project, said four vaccines are being developed. This is the first to go to human trials.
The vaccine contains small fragments of DNA that are intended to strengthen the immune system. Because the DNA cannot be replicated, there is no danger of developing AIDS from the vaccine, the council said.
In another research project, scientists in Thailand said today that they had reached their goal of recruiting 2,500 volunteers to test an AIDS vaccine, the first large trial of such a drug in a developing country.