Estimated worldwide HIV infections: 52,542,876 at 10.20am on Thursday June 19 2003.
The use of therapeutic vaccines — with and without concurrent Highly Active Anti-Retrovial Therapy (Haart) — was the major topic at the Immune Reconstitution and Control of HIV meeting in Italy last week. Although IL-2 remains the only immunomodulator likely to be approved in the near future, there are several exciting candidates that promise to boost CD4 cell counts and reduce HIV viral load.
Promising tests: The most exciting of the vaccines about to enter Phase I clinical trials is DermaVir, a topical DNA vaccine.
Made from a mix of HIV’s genetic material it stimulates immune cells located in the epidermis and is applied to the skin once every six weeks.
DermaVir has so far been tested with late-stage simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV, the monkey equivalent of HIV). Treatment using DermaVir plus Haart gave significantly decreased levels of SIV and increased levels of CD4 cells, compared to those who received DermaVir or Haart alone.