Developing

Cuba To Test HIV Vaccine On Humans This Year

Cuba will start clinical human trials of a vaccine against HIV this year.

The announcement was confirmed by the director of clinical research of Cuba's genetic engineering and biotechnology centre, Dr Verena Muizo, at the International Biotech Conference-Havana 2012.

"In terms of the vaccine against the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), it should start soon," he said.

"We hope in the second quarter of this year, or in the third. It is a clinical study of individuals infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, but it is a phase one study, for safety, and to start to try this possible vaccine.

Dr Muizo said the vaccine, known as TERAVAC-VIH-1, would start as a small study in just a few patients.

"The clinical study that we are going to do is going to be done with a small number of patients, 30.

"These are individuals that have not reached the Aids stage but are instead in the seropositive stage without reaching the clinical Aids stage."

A seropositive patient tests positive for HIV antibodies, but still has an immune system strong enough to fight off opportunistic infections that can cause complications with patients with full-blown Aids.

The researchers working on the HIV vaccine, though hopeful, were quick to point out that the investigation is still in the early phases and they will not know for many years whether the vaccine is effective or not.

"The vaccine is starting its clinical evaluation and we hope it works.

"But really, we need a lot more time to really be able to show its effectiveness as a product," Dr Muizo added.

In December last year a group of Canadian scientists won approval to start testing an experimental vaccine on humans.

Developed by researchers from the University of Western Ontario, it received a green light from the US Food and Drug Administration.