I pay attention to vaccines, not just the ones on the market, but also the future technologies that will allow us to prevent other types of diseases. This not only includes preventing common communicable diseases, but also using vaccines to boost the immune system so that the immune system can destroy and prevent diseases like cancer.
One of the most intense areas of vaccine research is in HIV/AIDS, where designing and testing effective vaccines has proven extraordinarily elusive. There are a number of factors that have inhibited the development of an HIV vaccine when compared to more “traditional” ones:
- Traditional vaccines available today mimic the natural immune process against reinfection, which is generally seen in individuals who have recovered from infection. Unfortunately, there are almost no recovered AIDS patients to give us a model for preventing reinfection.
- Because HIV infection may remain latent for long periods before causing AIDS, a vaccine induced immunity probably cannot destroy the HIV virus until the AIDS disease itself shows up, at which point the vaccine-induced immune process may be ineffective.
- Most effective vaccines are whole-killed or live-attenuated organisms; killed HIV-1 does not retain antigenicity for the adaptive immune system to “remember.” On the other hand, a live virus might provide proper antigenicity, but live HIV vaccines may raise significant safety issues.
- Most vaccines protect against infections that are infrequently encountered, which means the immune system can be fairly efficient in dealing with the pathogen. Unfortunately, individuals at high risk to HIV may encounter the virus frequently, even daily, which may overwhelm any immune response.
- Most vaccines protect against infections through mucosal surfaces of the respiratory or gastrointestinal tract; the great majority of HIV infection is through the genital tract. However, this is might be relatively easy to overcome. Continue reading “Crowd funded HIV vaccine–junk science?”