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Kenya, Rwanda and UK in joint HIV/Aids vaccine trial

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By Christabel Ligami Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, August 17   2013 at  15:31

In Summary

  • Phase 1 trials, which are scheduled to kick off before the end of this month, will be conducted by scientists at the Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) in Nairobi and St Stephen’s Centre in London.
  • The studies are funded by the International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), a non-profit organisation based in New York.
  • Researchers from both institutions will recruit up to 64 healthy adult volunteers aged between 18 and 50 for the trial, which is expected to take up to two years.
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Kenya and Rwanda have partnered with the United Kingdom in a HIV/Aids vaccine trial in a fresh effort to find a cure for the disease.

Phase 1 trials, which are scheduled to kick off before the end of this month, will be conducted by scientists at the Kenya Aids Vaccine Initiative (KAVI) in Nairobi and St Stephen’s Centre in London.

The studies are funded by the International Aids Vaccine Initiative (IAVI), a non-profit organisation based in New York.

Researchers from both institutions will recruit up to 64 healthy adult volunteers aged between 18 and 50 for the trial, which is expected to take up to two years.

According to Omu Anzala the programme director of KAVI, the vaccine trials will be carried out on a virus called Sendai.

 “This is the first time Sendai is being used as an Aids vaccine candidate,” said Dr Anzala. 

The Sendai vector carries an immunogen (the active ingredient of a vaccine) derived from the predominant subtype of HIV that circulates in East Africa.

But what distinguishes it from the other HIV vaccine candidates is its ability to replicate within the body following delivery, and its replication within mucosal tissues.

Both HIV and Sendai affect the mucosal tissues, found in the nose and genital area, in their early stages of infection. It is for this reason that the vaccine is administered through nasal drops.

The Sendai candidate, researchers say, may target immune responses to mucosal tissues and provide an edge to the immune system when it is subsequently challenged by HIV.

“At this point, the trial’s aim is to ensure that the vaccine is safe and more effective,” said Dr Anzala.

“If we see strong immune responses, we will go into the larger second phase of testing whether the vaccine is effective in reducing transmission or lowering the load of the virus,” he added.

In May, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania also partnered with the United States to take part in a HIV/Aids vaccine trial.

The DNA vaccine trials are being conducted by Makerere University and the US Walter Reed Army Institute of Research on 42 participants from Uganda, 20 from Kenya and Tanzania and 12 from the United States. The phase 1 is expected to run for two years, too.

Scientists say an Aids vaccine is urgently needed to control the spread of the disease. It is estimated that 33 million people in the world are living with HIV, and 7,000 people are newly infected with the virus every day.

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