In a region in South Africa, one in 5 adults is infected with HIV. That’s where an international research consortium plans to begin testing 4 new HIV vaccines simultaneously in 2014. Technology Review reports.
The tests will take place at K-RITH, a new research center opening this month in Durban, in KwaZulu-Natal province. Because the infection rate is so high, it could take as little as 2 years and 2,000 patients to figure out if a given vaccine works.
There have been 3 large tests of HIV vaccines so far – from VaxGen, Merck, and Sanofi -- but none succeeded in protecting people from becoming infected. "Our plan is to take things forward in parallel and not in sequence,” says Harvard’s Bruce Walker, a founding scientist at K-RITH.
Vaccines work by inoculating people with dead or weakened forms of a virus, or with specific molecules present on the virus's surface. Then the immune system learns to recognize and attack that microbe.
Developing a vaccine against HIV, a retrovirus, has proved difficult because it can mutate quickly and evade the protective effects of a vaccine.
South Africa has more than 17 percent of the world's HIV cases. According to Walker, the size of the epidemic in South Africa alone is reason enough to spend $100 million on a vaccine.
[Via Technology Review]
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This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com