U.S. Army uncovers successful results for AIDS vaccine
October 21, 2009
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan -- The fight against one of the deadliest virus known may have met its match against the United States Army.
The Army in conjunction with the Thai Ministry of Public Health, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, the National Institutes of Health, Sanofi Pasteur and Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases have uncovered successful results for an AIDS vaccination.
Lt. Col. Robert Paris, preventive medicine physician for Combined Joint Task Force-82, was the chief of retrovirology at Armed Forces Research Institute of Medical Sciences in Thailand, and had overall responsibility of the Army's HIV vaccine research program. This involved testing candidates in all HIV vaccine phases and was involved in the preparation, design, coordination and analysis of the study.
Paris specifically studied the effects of HIV vaccines on the natural history of HIV infection among people who become HIV-infected after vaccination. He also examined genetic factors associated with immune responses.
The Army and partners, trial tested a combination of ALVAC HIV vaccine, a candidate vaccination for HIV, and AIDSVAX B/E vaccine, another candidate vaccination for HIV, which lowered the rate of HIV infection by 31.2 percent.
"We are trying to fully understand these results," said the Phoenix, Ariz., native. "We're looking at the mechanics to find out why it was successful. There will be many variations of the vaccinations created and there will be reproductions of this study in a higher population."
The research began in 1995 when the Thai National Army approached the U.S. to establish a world program to monitor HIV. Typically, depending on the technology available, it takes two to four months for the AIDS virus to appear after contracting HIV.
"The Thai government was very proactive in finding an AIDS vaccine," said Paris. "In terms of a vaccine it had a modest effect, but gave us hopeful results. A lot of people didn't think it was possible to find a cure for AIDS because it's a mutating virus and (the most variety) out of any known virus."
Even though the AIDS vaccine has the potential to save millions of people, this isn't the first time the Department of Defense has helped create a vaccine that has world-wide implications.
"More than half of the licensed vaccines in the United States have been developed or researched through the Army," said Paris. "More recently the DoD has developed Malaria vaccines at the Vaccine Army Institute of Research in Africa. Other notable past cures have included vaccines for yellow fever, Adenovirus, and Hepatitis A and B and Japanese Syphilis."
From past cures to future vaccination research, the DoD is putting forth an effort to effectively combat viruses that could be devastating for mission success.
"The DoD is about to start a program to combat the Dengue virus (a tropical viral infection found in Africa)," said Paris. "Wherever there is a threat that would have significant mission impact if spread, the DoD will be there to fight it."
As the fight against viruses rages from Thailand to the subtropics of Africa, the U.S. Army is working with researchers worldwide to combat that which may seem impossible to defeat.
"This AIDS vaccine brings much needed hope to this field," said Paris. "The research has been fraught with frustration and the field has suffered in terms of optimism. The DoD brings a wealth of experience in areas of limited research. Hopefully, this data is beginning to light the road that will take us to stronger vaccines."