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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 13:53 GMT 14:53 UK
HIV vaccine trial extended
There are high hopes for a vaccine
A new phase of the world's first clinical trial to test a vaccine candidate for one of the most prevalent HIV strains affecting Africa has been launched.

The vaccine, which aims to harness the ability of the body's immune system to fight disease, has already begun tests in Oxford and Nairobi.

It's a chance to help us save lives

Professor Jonathan Weber
On Thursday the first volunteers in the London arm of the trial were vaccinated.

The volunteers will receive various combinations of the two vaccine components or a dummy placebo at differing intervals.

The primary aim of this stage in the vaccine's development is to establish what dose is safe.

However, it might also provide information about how many booster jabs might be needed.

Volunteers needed

Professor Jonathan Weber, of Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine in London, is leading the team that will co-ordinate the London end of the trial, from St Mary's Hospital, Paddington.

They will collaborate with colleagues led by Professor Andrew McMichael, of the Medical Research Council Human Immunology Unit in Oxford.

The teams need to recruit 120 volunteers in total from the London and Oxford regions.

They must be between the ages of 18 and 60, HIV negative and at low risk of HIV infection and able to attend 12 appointments over the course of a year.

The vaccine has two parts, one to prime the immune system and one to boost it.

The aim is to give the body a head start in fending the virus off to stop it overpowering the immune system and taking hold.

Professor Weber said: "Timing and dosage of vaccines is crucial to the overall success of a trial such as this.

"It will help establish whether the vaccine works and what procedures should be in place for healthcare programmes.

"I'm sure the people of London will respond to our need for volunteers - it's a chance to help us save lives."

Sex workers

Extensive studies of sex workers in Nairobi and elsewhere gave the clues that helped in the design of the vaccine.

Despite frequent exposure to HIV, a small minority of these women has resisted infection over many years.

The researchers think this is because some people's immune systems successfully destroy the virus using cells called T-cells.

Derek Bodell, chief executive of the National Aids Trust, said, "This trial is an important step towards the development of a safe, effective and affordable HIV vaccine.

"NAT particularly welcomes the development of a vaccine specifically designed for use in Africa.

"NAT believes that vaccine development should prioritise vaccines that will work to combat HIV in highly affected countries.

"Globally we need to strengthen prevention education efforts while at the same time giving priority to developing new prevention tools such as vaccines."

Anyone in London or Oxford who is eligible and interested in joining the trial can call:

  • London: Ken Legg, Miranda Cowen or Dr Nicky Mackie on 0800 587 4406
  • Oxford: Mary Brooks or Dr Inese Cebere on 0800 169 6978

  • See also:

    26 Feb 02 | Health
    HIV vaccines show promise
    17 Jan 02 | Health
    Development in Aids vaccine hunt
    31 Aug 00 | Health
    HIV vaccine trials
    31 Aug 00 | Health
    MP tests Aids vaccine
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