Working to Find a Cure for AIDS
By Ada Marrero
Specialists from the Havana-based Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology Center (CIGB) recently reported on the results of years of studies and testing to develop an HIV vaccine to replace the retroviral inhibitors presently in use, presenting to a group of academics and researchers from some ten countries.
Known as TERAVAC-VIH, the vaccine is now being being clinically tested on humans.
Progress to date was shared by the CIGB specialists at the first BioProcess 2017 International Congress in the Cuban province of Camagüey.
Though results are promising, specialists involved cautioned against unrealistic expectations.
Researcher Yayri Caridad Prieto, a member of the CIGB team working on the project, said that the vaccine does not cure the disease but seeks to reduce the HIV viral load on patients and enhance their quality of life.
CIGB speakers said that the vaccine had thus far been tested on nine patients, and no side effects had been reported. TERAVAC-VIH is administered both by intranasal and intramuscular routes.
“The aim is to replace current therapies based on retroviral inhibitors, which effectively prevent HIV from spreading but can cause side effects that sometimes lead to a temporary suspension of treatment,” the Cuban expert explained. The results presented to the congress indicate that the Cuban vaccine enhances the organism’s immune responses and reduces the viral load of CD8 cells, which play a leading role in HIV infection defense.
CIGB researchers clarified however that the vaccine development project still requires years of additional research.
In order to establish its efficacy, further clinical trials involving a greater number of seropositive patients are needed.
Details of the HIV vaccine project had first been revealed at the Havana International Biotechnology Congress in 2012.
Scientists from around the world have been working to discover a cure since HIV was discovered and an AIDS pandemic declared. Cuba’s research to develop a vaccine dates back to the 1990s. A successful governmental program has also been implemented to avoid transmission of the disease.
In 2015, World Health Organization declared that Cuba was the first country in the world to have eradicated mother to child HIV transmission. HIV transmission through blood and blood products have also been close to eliminated here.
The first reported HIV case in Cuba was detected in 1985. More than 26,000 cases have since been diagnosed, according to National Program for the Prevention and Control of Sexually Transmitted Diseases/HIV/AIDS statistics.
The Public Health Ministry informed The Havana Reporter that at present, Cuba’s free universal public health care system is treating more than 17,000 HIV/AIDS patients with antiretroviral therapy.