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Sweden to begin testing HIV vaccine on humans

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18:01 CET+01:00
Dagens Nyheter chose World Aids day to report on a promising new HIV vaccine which Swedish researchers will now be allowed to start testing on humans.

Tests on mice have shown that HIV antibodies can develop without the mice contracting the disease. The vaccine could save the lives of millions of people in Africa where a particular subtype of HIV virus is most prevalent.

Researchers from Stockholm Söder Hospital and the Karolinska Institute have now been given the go-ahead to begin testing the vaccine on 40 healthy subjects. After that they will move their testing ground to Tanzania, said DN.

"Hopefully we will begin vaccinating in Dar es Salaam in Tanzania next year. We already have the equipment and the people in place," commented Eric Sandström, Consultant at Stockholm Söder hospital to DN.

Expressen reported that for the Swedish tests 40 volunteers will be selected that are healthy and that do not belong to any of the HIV risk groups. The trials will be held at the Venhälsan, the sexual health clinic at Stockholm Söder.

Traditional vaccines have not been effective against HIV. However, the new Swedish vaccine is a so-called DNA vaccine, made from a modified form of an infectious organism's DNA. The recipient's immune system responds in a similar manner to if the person were actually infected by the true organism.

DN explained that "the Swedish cocktail is a mix of six different virus strains that are prevalent in Africa". But the vaccine's effectiveness has been boosted with so-called adjuvants, which appear to have been behind the successful tests on mice.

The vaccine is intended for certain sub-types of HIV that are found in Tanzania. Although it is unlikely that the type used in the study will offer complete protection against HIV it will hopefully decrease infectiousness and stop AIDS from developing.

Reuters reported in September of this year that the trials on human volunteers were to start in October. Mohammed Bakari, a senior member of the research team, told Reuters the vaccine was intended to target HIV subtypes prevalent in Tanzania, where an estimated 2.2 million of the country's 34 million people are living with HIV/AIDS.

According to Expressen, 6,000 people in Sweden have the disease.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, www.people.ku.edu

Lysanne Sizoo

Lysanne Sizoo is a certified Counsellor, specialising in bereavement, fertility and cultural assimilation issues. She also runs a support and discussion group for English speaking women. You can contact her on sizoo@swipnet.se, or 08 717 3769. More information on www.sizoo.nu.

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