- Infectious disease researchers at Rush-Presbyterian-St.
Luke's Medical Center in Chicago have embarked on a search to find a vaccine
to prevent people from contracting the human immuodeficiency virus (HIV).
- Rush is recruiting patients for a Phase I clinical trial
to test the safety of an HIV vaccine that has potential to protect healthy
people against the disease. This is one of two types of vaccines being
tested around the world, according to infectious disease specialist Dr.
Beverly Sha. Other HIV vaccine trials involve testing therapies on those
already infected. Rush is the only Chicago-area medical center participating
in this HIV vaccine study. Merck Pharmaceuticals is funding this phase
of the study.
- "I think this is the Holy Grail of HIV treatments,
to prevent healthy people from getting infected," said Dr. Sha. With
15,000 new HIV infections each day, 95 percent of which occur in developing
countries, there are compelling reasons to search for a vaccine, according
to Sha. Existing methods of HIV prevention - abstinence, condoms and education
- have not reduced the worldwide incidence of HIV.
- Patients who enroll in the study will be randomly assigned
to one of three regimens: one group will receive a priming vaccine at the
start of their enrollment and the HIV-1 DNA gag vaccine with adjuvant aluminum
phosphate; another group will receive the HIV-1 DNA gag vaccine with only
the adjuvant; and a third group will receive a placebo injection. Adjuvants
are substances sometimes included in a vaccine formulation to enhance or
modify the immune- stimulating properties of a vaccine.
- The vaccines Sha is testing work by using delivery vehicles
known as vectors to transport a gene of HIV-1, known as gag into the cells.
The HIV-1 gag DNA vaccine uses plasmid, or "naked" DNA as a vector.
The HIV-1 gag replication-defective adenovirus vaccine is based on a modified
common cold virus, altered so it cannot reproduce and cause illness. The
delivery of the HIV-1 gene gag into the cells stimulates the body to generate
a potent cellular immune response to HIV-1, producing an army of killer
T-cells that recognize and kill HIV-1-infected cells, now and in the future.
- Preliminary analysis presented at the 9th Conference
of Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in February suggests that
the HIV-1 gag vaccines for the prevention and treatment of HIV-1 elicit
specific antiviral cellular immune responses and are generally well tolerated.
- Sha is recruiting healthy patients between the ages 18-50
with no kidney or liver diseases and who are not pregnant. After each injection,
patients will be given liver and kidney tests and a double-stranded DNA
test to see if the body develops antibodies and an immune response against
the DNA. Pathologists will also perform special assays to expose cells
to components of the vaccine to see how well they respond.
- Rush researchers will examine patients closely for local
reactions to the shot, flu-like symptoms or any autoimmune response.
- Sha said that if the vaccine is found safe and effective,
it would be appropriate for nearly everyone as 100 percent of the population
is or becomes sexually active. She indicated that this trial represents
significant progress in a search for a preventive measure against HIV.
- "While we don't know if this will be effective,
we know that there are other sexually transmitted diseases that we have
worked on much longer without reaching this point," Sha said. She
indicated that patients likely to enroll in this trial are those who have
a loved one or close friend who has HIV or AIDS and wants to assist in
the search for an effective vaccine.
- To enroll in the study, call 312/942-5865.
- Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center includes
the 824-bed Presbyterian-St. Luke's Hospital; 110-bed Johnston R. Bowman
Health Center; Rush University (Rush Medical College, College of Nursing,
College of Health Sciences and the Graduate College).
- Editor's Note: The original news release can be found
- Note: This story has been adapted from a news release
issued by Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center for journalists and
other members of the public. If you wish to quote from any part of this
story, please credit Rush Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center as the
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