VAX November 2014

Vol. 12, No. 06 - November 2014


A full spectrum of interests in HIV prevention research, brought together for the first time


What recent developments are fueling research into using vaccines to treat or even cure HIV?

By Mary Rushton

The word vaccine is generally used to describe any substance administered to confer immunity and therefore prevent disease. However, HIV researchers, as well as researchers in fields such as cancer, are pursuing another type of vaccine that is intended as therapy. These so-called therapeutic vaccines are administered to individuals that already are infected with the virus or have the disease, and are intended to boost the immune responses against the pathogen. Or in the case of HIV, induce better immune responses than what the body makes naturally (see VAX March 2013 Primer on Understanding Therapeutic Vaccination). One of the reasons HIV is so hard to control and to clear—to date, only one individual is considered cured of HIV (see VAX July 2013 Spotlight article, The WHO Casts A Wider Net)—is that the immune responses the body naturally mounts against the virus are, in all but rare cases, insufficient to effectively control HIV. Therefore, for a therapeutic vaccine to work, it will need to induce immune responses that are different than those induced in natural infection.