September 15, 2013
The Path To A Cure
I was born in 1984, one year after the HIV / AIDS virus was first characterized. In the time since then, the virus has claimed the lives of more than 35 million people and currently inflects an estimated 34 million more. Growing up through the 90’s, the HIV/AIDS scare is something I remember clearly. It was even labeled the incurable disease of the times, the next Black Death, and even – I kid you not – a sign that the apocalypse is nigh. I have known several people with HIV/AIDS, some of them very closely. As such, when announced earlier this week that there is an HIV vaccine that has passed it Phase-1 clinical trials, better still, with no adverse affects recorded in any of the patients, I was incredibly excited.
This vaccine, titled SAV001-H, was created by Dr. Chil-Yong Kang and this team at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, along with the generous support of Sumagen Canada. It began its clinical trials back in March of 2012, and completed them just last month (August 2013). No adverse side-effects were recorded in any of the patients, a group of HIV-infected, men and women, between the ages of 18-50. While it did not cure them, it has proved to reduce symptoms and help prevent the disease from advancing. SAV001-H is the first genetically modified killed whole virus – meaning that it was created by modifying existing strains of the virus after they died off – vaccine in clinical trials, and because of that, both its effectiveness and safety to humans were major concerns throughout the process. The same sort of vaccine, the genetically modified killed whole virus – is what was used to cure other diseases like polio, influenza, rabies and hepatitis A.
Other vaccines exist, of course, but those attempt to cure the disease in differing ways. Some focus on acting like an antigen (antibody generators), genetic vaccines, or recombinant viruses carrying the HIV genes. Unfortunately, no other vaccine has, as of yet, been successful. SAV001-H is designed in such a way that it will be easy to mass produce and safe for human use, both of which are key in finding a cure for this terrible virus.
We are one step closer. SAV001-H is not a cure, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. It is a ray of hope for all of those who have had to live with HIV/AIDS. It is the promise of a cure, one that cannot come soon enough. Human beings are not people to sit idly by and let something eat at them. We have fought and beaten other terrible illnesses in the past, and we have a pretty good track record of coming out on top. I look forward to the day when, at last, we will have a cure. When the “sign of the apocalypse” no longer hangs over our heads and we can finally help those how have been suffering from it.
Image Credit: Thinkstock.com