A HUMAN trial on what is being claimed as a potential Aids “cure” is about to start in Marseille.
After 13 years of work, a team at the structural biology laboratory at the Timone Hospital have been given permission to test a new treatment on 48 people who are HIV-positive.
The treatment, which has been found to be effective in animal trials, is described as a “curative vaccine”. This refers to one intended to help the immune systems of people who are already infected to fight a disease, as opposed to merely having a preventative effect.
The active substance, an “anti-Aids molecule”, is designed to target TAT proteins, which prevent the immune system from cleaning infected cells.
The first 1,000 doses of vaccine made by the laboratory are now ready and the health authorities have given the green light for them to given to the volunteers, who will have three injections over a year.
The aim is to find the most effective dose for humans – different amounts will be given to different patients, and some will be given placebos. The patients will be tested once a month to monitor the effects.
Laboratory director Erwann Loret said the aim was to reduce HIV infection so as to avoid patients having to take current therapies for life, because he said they had serious side-effects. Ultimately the aim was to completely “block” the virus, he told regional newspaper La Provence.
However he warned against over-optimism, using a version of a Winston Churchill speech from November 1942: “This is not the end of Aids, not even the beginning of the end. It is just, perhaps, the end of the beginning.”
A second trial, on 80 patients, is scheduled in a year.
The development comes as President Hollande has warned that the “fight against Aids must go on”, saying prevention and diagnosis have worsened in France recently. He said each year 7,000 people are infected with HIV and 30,000 of the estimated 150,000 people with HIV are unaware of the fact.