Kenyan researchers are working on about eight potential HIV vaccines.None has shown efficacy, but scientists believe they are still potent if delivered efficiently into the body.And so they are not giving up.They have resolved to intensify their work and use other methods that will finally give the desired results.“Most of them were found to be safe, but failed to stimulate the body’s immune system,”
Borna Nyaoke, a clinical trial physician at the Kenya AIDS Vaccine Initiative, said yesterday.“Now we are trying different methods that can deliver it directly into the cell.”She said some of the new delivery methods include administering through nasal drops and electroporation, where the vaccine is given through a quick, high-voltage pulse to overcome the barrier of the cell membrane.
“We are working on a HIV vaccine. We will get it, but it will take time,” Nyaoke said during a world HIV Vaccine Awareness Day conference convened in Nairobi by WACI Health, a regional advocacy group. She said all the Kenyan vaccine candidates passed safety levels but stalled at Phase Two.Nyaoke said candidates would take at least another 10 years of testing even if scientists find a better delivery method. It is hard to make an HIV vaccine because the virus mutates quickly and a vaccine against one type may not protect against another.
Vaccines work by mimicking natural infections, during which the body produces antibodies that kill the virus.But HIV doesn’t stimulate this kind of response. The body’s immune systems are generally blind to the virus and unable to launch an effective antibody attack.There is also the lack of good animal models to study. KAVI, an affiliate of the University of Nairobi, has been conducting vaccine research since 2001. Globally, the efforts are more than 30 years old.
WACI health executive director Rosemary Mburu praised HIV research efforts in Kenya and called for more government funding.“Finding a vaccine is costly and involves a lot of research. But it is essential and possible. That is why we need to invest in it,” she said.
UNAIDS says a vaccine would be the most effective way to control the virus.“The biggest impacts in the eradication or control of infectious diseases in the history of public health have been achieved through vaccination,” Michel Sidibé, Unaids executive director, said. “This is why a vaccine is worth continuing to invest in.”