Happy HIV Vaccine Day!

May 17, 2010

Torah Kachur

Raise your glass tomorrow, May 18th, to toast all the incredibly intelligent researchers around the world working towards an HIV vaccine.  Because May 18th is HIV vaccine awareness day.

        Torah Kachur HIV Vaccine Awareness Day AIDS  24f93aaa4f5bdee71e3ad3a7ecf1dbac

Every day 7,000 people worldwide die of AIDS, and another 14,000 are infected with the HIV virus.  I hope I don't have to tell anyone reading this that HIV causes AIDS and AIDS is bad.  Because if you didn' t know this, please read a paper more than once every 15 years. 


The quest to cure/neutralize/prevent HIV infections has spanned everything from promoting condom use (smart) to taking amino acid supplements with selenium (stupid).  We can prevent infection by using condoms.  But, condoms are expensive if you're a Zimbabwean prostitute, or hard to get if you have a late night booty call with no 24hr drug store. 


So, development of an HIV vaccine is crucial to the management of this infection.  It's been a big year in the HIV vaccine world - with the first evidence of partial protection of humans by an HIV vaccine, identification of a new potential vaccine target, and, recently, vaccine induced control of the non-human primate form of HIV (SIV).


And, the development of a mosaic vaccine used some of the most advanced research to date.  Researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratories (ironically, where they also store and devise nuclear weapons used to kill people), used complex computer algorithms to create highly variable artificial viral proteins as a vaccine.  This strategy resulted in a four-fold increase in immune response to HIV infection in monkeys.  Four fold may not sound impressive at the start, I mean it's only a single digit, but this represents a huge advance in our ability to target HIV.


HIV is a really annoying virus to study - it mutates very quickly allowing it to constantly evade the immune system and any stable vaccines.  Also, it comes in a multitude of different forms, so it becomes very difficult to develop a universal vaccine to all the different strains, kind of like a "Where's Waldo" book when Waldo always looks different.  Like I said, annoying.


We are, by no means, anywhere near a safe and effective universal vaccine, but there are several clinical trials underway testing different concoctions and, they are currently accepting volunteers to test it....the vaccine, not HIV. 


An HIV vaccine will impact us all, no matter how slutty or drug-addicted we are.  The damage caused by AIDS has halted any chance at development in some countries, taxed the medical system and orphaned very cute babies. 


So HIV researchers, we at Science in Seconds salute you.



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