Organ Grinder's Sidekick and AIDS Solution

HIV vaccine works for monkeys

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) An organ grinder will tell you, "Those monkeys are great and will work for peanuts." Finally, the monkeys are the 'boss' with a promising new vaccine that is working for them.

Louis Picker, M.D., from the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute (VGTI) in Oregon, and his team have produced a vaccine that protects monkeys against Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV), the monkey's equivalent of HIV.

"Vaccine protecting monkeys against AIDS may lead to human vaccine."

Picker and his team elected to use Cytomegalovirus (CMV) as the taxi cab service to introduce the vaccine into the body. The team chose CMV, a virus in the herpes family is thought to lay dormant in 80 percent of the population, because once CMV is in the body, it remains for life.

Over 50 percent the monkeys receiving the vaccine candidate controlled replication of the virus to the point where the most sensitive tests did not see signs of SIV. The vast majority of monkeys maintained control over the virus for more than a year, eventually losing any signs that they had SIV.

Picker decided that if such a persistent virus as CMV were used as a the taxi cab service to deliver the vaccine they developed, it could create and maintain resistance against HIV by telling the body's immune system to be constantly on alert for the virus.

Picker observed excitedly that the next step is to test the vaccine on humans in clinical trials. For a human vaccine to work, the CMV taxi cab service would be weakened sufficiently so that it does not cause illness, but will still protect against HIV.

The study suggests that the immune responses elicited by this new vaccine candidate may even completely rid animals of SIV who are already infected with the disease. 

In comparison, antiretroviral therapy is only capable of controlling the disease, not clearing it. 

The Study

  • Tested their vaccine candidate via rhesus macaque monkeys at the Oregon National Primate Research Center 
  • The monkeys in the unvaccinated control group developed SIV
Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 12, 2011
Last Updated:
May 18, 2011