Experimental AIDS vaccine fails

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Friday, September 21, 2007

Stylized rendering of a cross-section of the AIDS virus.
Image: United States Department of Energy.

An experimental AIDS prevention vaccine has failed in the latest crucial experiment as more inoculated volunteers contracted HIV than volunteers who were not inoculated.

Merck & Company said that it is withdrawing its involvement in the international study, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

The Associated Press reports that officials from the New Jersey-based company said that 24 of 741 volunteers who got the vaccine contracted HIV. In the control group which received a placebo injection, 21 subjects were seropositive.

Keith Gottesdiener, the head of Merck & Company's infectious disease and vaccine research group, said, "It's very disappointing news... A major effort to develop a vaccine for HIV really did not deliver on the promise." Merck had been working on the vaccine for the past decade.

Merck said that all the volunteers who participated in the study did not have HIV when the program began, but were at a high risk of contracting the disease. The majority of the volunteers were either homosexual males or female sex workers.

Another goal of the vaccine was to lessen the severity of the disease for people that did contract it. Officials say that goal was also not met.

The AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition says that while Merck's unsuccessful test is a disappointment, they will continue researching possible vaccines.

Because the body's immune response to the virus causing AIDS is ineffective, many physicians have serious doubts that an HIV vaccine will ever be possible. Research into the matter is needed nonetheless because a vaccine has an enormous potential in fighting the global AIDS pandemic.


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