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AIDS vaccine has ‘modest’ effect – MedCity Morning Read, Sept. 25, 2009

For the first time, an AIDS vaccine shows some promise. The vaccine, tested on more than 16,000 volunteers in Thailand, protected “a significant minority” against infection, The New York Times reported. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which was involved in the study, said the vaccine was 31 percent effective.

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BANGKOK, Thailand – For the first time, an AIDS vaccine shows some promise.

The vaccine, tested on more than 16,000 volunteers in Thailand, protected “a significant minority” against infection, The New York Times reported Thursday.

In a statement, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) explained that 74 of 8,198 people who received a placebo became infected with HIV, compared with 51 of 8,197 people who received the vaccine, known as RV144. That means the regimen – a combination of two genetically-engineered vaccines that had never before worked in humans, according to the Times – was 31 percent effective. NIAID, which is part of the National Institutes of Health, called it a “modest” effect.

The results, noted The Wall Street Journal, “aren’t particularly strong, as far as vaccines go.” But in light of past AIDS vaccine failures, the Journal said, “any benefit at all is something worth noting.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of NIAID, said the findings “represent an important step forward in HIV vaccine research.” Still, he noted, additional research is required.

According to the Times, two fundamental questions must be answered: “why it worked in some people but not in others, and why those infected despite vaccination got no benefit at all.”

More detailed results of the study will be presented in October at the AIDS Vaccine Conference in Paris, according to a statement of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program. The U.S. Army and NIAID collaborated with the Thai Ministry of Public Health, Sanofi Pasteur and Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases.

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