Medical school contributes to key HIV immunisation trial

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A YORKSHIRE medical school is taking part in trials to develop a new vaccine which could potentially save millions of women’s lives from HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The Hull York Medical School (HYMS) is one of four academic centres in the UK taking part in the trial, which will see 36 healthy women – who do not have HIV and are aged between 18 and 45 – vaccinated and monitored for their immune responses at St George’s University of London and the HYMS Experimental Medicine Unit at York Hospital.

If successful, the vaccine could provide protection for women against the most prevalent strain of the HIV virus, which has infected half of the 34m people with the virus.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, women make up nearly 60 per cent of adults with HIV.

This is the first trial of an injectable vaccine containing the characteristic protein of HIV cells in the predominant strain of the disease in Africa – known as Clade C, which is responsible for the greatest number of infections globally.

The study, which is funded by the Wellcome Trust and known as MUCOVAC2, is expected to take less than a year to complete, with the first results available early in 2013.

Professor Robin Shattock, chair in mucosal infection and immunity at Imperial College, said: “Globally, women comprise half of the 34 million people living with HIV.

“In Sub-Saharan Africa, women represent nearly 60 percent of adults with the virus.

“Our collaboration marks an important juncture for the field as we begin to assess which routes of immunisation may provide the best responses to protect women.”

Prof Shattock is leading the consortium which developed the trial.

Aside from HYMS, St George’s University of London and Imperial College, the Medical Research Council Clinical Trial Unit and the Infectious Disease Research Institute in Seattle are also taking part.

Leading the study for St George’s is Dr Catherine Cosgrove, with Professor Charles Lacey leading the study at York.

The women participating in the trial will either receive the vaccine by injection, liquid drops to the nose or a combination of the injection and intravaginal immunisation through applying a gel.

This will allow researchers to compare the effectiveness of the various approaches, with a view to secondary trials and a potential immunisation programme in Sub-Saharan Africa and other regions of the world where HIV is prevalent.

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