Researchers at Australian biotechnology company Virax reported Wednesday at the 11th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in San Francisco that the company's experimental therapeutic HIV vaccine reduced viral levels in HIV-positive study subjects, the Australian reports. The scientists studied 35 people who were recently infected with HIV, giving them injections of VIR201 at the start of the trial, at the four-week point, and the 12-week point. Patients receiving VIR201 had HIV viral levels six times lower than those of individuals who received a placebo. The researchers say the vaccine primes the body's immune system to better recognize and destroy HIV in the bloodstream.
"This is moving from the concept of treating HIV with [antiretrovirals] to the concept of treating someone who is HIV-positive with a vaccine that will stimulate the immune system to control the virus," said Steve Wesselingh, director of Melbourne's Burnet Institute. "The benefit to patients is they will either be able to take fewer drugs or no drugs at all."