A new AIDS vaccine, developed by researchers in Spain, has helped five HIV patients remain virus-free seven months after taking the treatment, according to reports.
The treatment allowed the patients to stop taking regular antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. ARV drugs are the current method being used to suppress HIV. The scientists claim the vaccine may be a ‘functional cure’.
Though it needs to be confirmed in a large-scale clinical trial, the results suggest the vaccine may boost the immune system enough to allow infected people to drive down HIV levels without taking drugs—although it’s not clear for how long.
In the research, the scientists at IrsiCaixa Aids Research Institute, Barcelona, reportedly combined two innovative HIV vaccines with a drug that is usually used to treat cancer. They then administered the new AIDS vaccine into 24 participants.
After the 24 HIV patients were given the dose, the virus was undetectable in five of them. Its spread, the researchers say, was stopped by the immune systems.
Even more interesting, one of the five patients went on to live without the virus and without taking ARTs for seven consecutive months, according to the researchers.
Lead Scientist Beatriz Mothe, says; “We are on the right path to developing a treatment that could offer an alternative to the daily antiretroviral drugs (ARTs).”
The Spanish scientists argue that ART drugs are expensive and can have negative side effects. Also, patients are forced to swallow the tablets on daily basis, and in most cases for their entire lives, which can be tiresome.
They argue that in 2015 alone, provision of ART drugs to patients in low to middle-income countries cost US$19 billion. This means huge savings could be made if further research is proven to be successful.
Mitchell Warren, Executive Director of the Aids Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC) says this research had been carried out in small scale but findings are interesting and very important. The report says this is the first step towards success in a field that has failed to find a vaccine in the last 30 years.
This development is coming barely a month after a Nigerian Professor from Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Abia State, Prof. Maduike Ezeibe claimed to have discovered a cure for HIV/AIDS.
Shortly after Prof Ezeibe’s announcement, the Federal Government was quick to refute his claims through the National Agency for the Control of AIDS (NACA) and the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). NACA noted that the facts of the study quoted by Ezeibe did not follow standard ethical protocols for clinical trials.
Moreso, despite assurances from the federal government to investigate and submit its findings on the alleged cure to AIDS by Professor of Veterinary medicine, Health Minister, Isaac Adewole shared same sentiments spotting evidential flaws in Ezeibe’s research processes.
Adewole argued that what is clear about the claim is that his activities were carried out without a valid ethical approval. He maintained that nobody was entitled to conduct any experiment or research on human beings without an ethical approval, a process that the professor is alleged to have ignored.
According to the Health minister, the Director General, Institute of Medical Research and the National Research Ethic Committee had no evidence of the claims, noting that researchers ought to seek and obtain ethical approval before undertaking such projects.
The federal government further assured that the health ministry will disclose the full report of their findings against Professor Ezeibe’s claim at the appropriate time.
Following these arguments, some Nigerians have condemned the federal government and NACA for their comments on Prof Ezeibe’s claim alleging that it could be demoralizing to Nigerian research and researchers in the future.