Johnson & Johnson’s HIV vaccine trials have not shown that the drug is effective in preventing the condition.
The New Brunswick, New Jersey-based company held the trial, dubbed ‘Imbokodo’ in sub-Saharan Africa, and involved 2,600 young women.
While the vaccine was found to be safe, with no serious side effects, its efficacy in preventing HIV infection was just over 25 percent, meaning it was considered a failure.
It was long anticipated when it launched in 2017, as some hoped it could open the door to the possible eradication of the deadly disease.
Johnson & Johnson’s trial for an HIV vaccine was deemed a failure after the shots showed only 25% effectiveness in preventing the virus. (File photo)
HIV is a virus that attacks and damages a person’s immune system. Once the immune system has suffered enough damage, a person will develop AIDS. Pictured: A National Institutes of Health handout of an HIV-infected white blood cell
“While we are disappointed that the vaccine candidate did not provide adequate protection against HIV infection in the Imbokodo study, the study will provide us with important scientific findings in the ongoing pursuit of a vaccine to prevent HIV,” said Paul Stoffels, head Research. J&J officer said in a statement.
WHY MODERN MEDS MEAN HIV IS NOT A DEATH SENTENCE?
Before 1996, HIV was a death sentence for almost everyone who contracted the virus. Then ART (antiretroviral therapy) was created, which suppresses the virus, and which means one person can live as long as anyone else, despite having HIV.
Drugs have also been invented to lower an HIV-negative person’s risk of contracting the virus by 99%.
Research has shown in recent years that ART can suppress HIV in such a way that the virus becomes untransmittable to sexual partners.
That has sparked a movement to lower the crime of infecting a person with HIV: The victim gets lifelong, expensive drugs, but it doesn’t mean certain death.
Here’s more about the new life-saving and preventive drugs:
1. Medicines for HIV-positive people
It suppresses their viral load so that the virus is not transferable
In 1996, antiretroviral therapy (ART) was discovered.
The drug, a triple combination, turned HIV from a fatal diagnosis into a manageable chronic condition.
It suppresses the virus and prevents it from developing into AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), which makes the body not resistant to infections.
After taking the daily pill religiously for six months, it suppresses the virus to the point that it is undetectable.
And once a person’s viral load is undetectable, they can’t transmit HIV to someone else, according to dozens of studies, including a 10-year study by the National Health Institutes.
Public health authorities around the world now recognize that U=U (undetectable equals non-transmissible).
2. Medicines for HIV Negative People
It is 99% effective in preventing HIV
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) became available in 2012.
This pill works like ‘the pill’ – it is taken daily and is 99 percent effective at preventing HIV infection (more effective than the birth control pill at preventing pregnancy).
It consists of two drugs (tenofovir dosproxil fumarate and emtricitabine). Those drugs can trigger an immediate attack on any trace of HIV that enters the person’s bloodstream before it can spread throughout the body.
By: Mia Degraaf
The women from Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe who participated will soon be informed whether they have received the vaccine or a placebo.
The company will continue a parallel trial of gay and transgender men taking place in the Americas and Europe, where vaccine composition differs and so do the prevalent HIV strains.
“We need to apply the knowledge we gained during the Imbokodo research and continue our efforts to find a vaccine that protects against HIV,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. , which co-financed the study.
The J&J vaccine uses similar adenovirus technology to its Covid-19 vaccine and came with four vaccinations over a year.
A genetically modified cold virus provides genetic instructions for carrying cargo to the host to develop ‘mosaic immunogens’ – molecules capable of eliciting an immune response against a wide variety of HIV strains.
The last two doses also contain proteins found on the HIV virus itself, as well as a substance called an ‘adjuvant’, which is meant to further boost the immune system.
The trial was analyzed two years after the women, who were between the ages of 18 and 35, received their first dose.
Researchers found that 63 participants who received the placebo and 51 who received the vaccine became infected with HIV, meaning the efficacy was 25.2 percent.
The participants were offered pre-exposure prophylaxis medication (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection during the clinical trial.
The women who had contracted HIV infection were referred to medical care and offered antiretroviral treatment.
HIV was first discovered in 1981, when gay men in Los Angeles and New York were discovered with severe immune deficiencies, with nearly all early victims dying in agony within a few years of diagnosis.
In 1982, the term “AIDS,” the acquired immune deficiency syndrome, was coined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
HIV is a virus that weakens a person’s immune system, rendering a person unable to fight off disease.
The condition can eventually develop into AIDS once a person’s immune system has suffered enough damage.
More than 1.2 million Americans now have the condition, and more than 700.00 have died since it was first discovered 40 years ago.
Treatments for HIV have evolved greatly over the years and it is now medically possible for a person with the condition to medically prevent it from progressing to AIDS.
People who stick to their HIV medication regimen should also have a normal life expectancy.
However, finding a vaccine for it has been a goal for many health officials, as it would open the door to the complete eradication of HIV and AIDS.
While the J&J attempt may have failed, Moderna — who also made an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine — will start tasting soon of an mRNA HIV vaccine.
The trial is expected to be completed in the spring of 2023.