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Full Results of AIDS Vaccine Trial Confirm Modest Benefit
Date:10/20/2009

e U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of the trial's sponsors, told The New York Times last month.

"For more than 20 years now, vaccine trials have essentially been failures," he said. "Now it's like we were groping down an unlit path, and a door has been opened. We can start asking some very important questions."

The World Health Organization and the U.N. agency UNAIDS said in September that the results "instilled new hope" in the field of HIV vaccine research.

The vaccine is a combination of two vaccines that had previously been unsuccessful in clinical trials. When the Thai clinical trial began in 2006, many scientists thought it would also fail.

The study, which used strains of HIV common in Thailand, tested the two-vaccine combination in what's called a "prime-boost" approach. The first vaccine primes the immune system to attack HIV and the second one strengthens the response.

The two vaccines are called ALVAC and AIDSVAX. ALVAC contains canarypox -- a bird virus that has been genetically altered so it can't cause disease in humans -- to transport synthetic versions of three HIV genes into the body. AIDSVAX contains a genetically engineered version of a protein on HIV's surface. Because the vaccines aren't made from a whole virus -- either dead or alive -- they can't cause AIDS, according to the Associated Press.

The study was done in Thailand because U.S. Army scientists did key research in that country when the AIDS epidemic emerged there, isolating virus strains and providing genetic information on them to vaccine makers. The Thai government also strongly supported the idea of doing the study, the AP reported.

For the trial, half of the 16,402 volunteers were given six doses of the two vaccines in 2006 and half were given placebos. They then got regular HIV tests for three years. Fifty-one of those who got the vaccines became infected comp
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