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Can mRNA Vaccine Work For HIV? Moderna Is Set To Find Out

Can mRNA Vaccine Work For HIV? Moderna Is Set To Find Out

The mRNA-based Moderna vaccine isn’t just trying to beat COVID-19. It’s also aiming to offer protection against the seemingly unstoppable Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV. Can mRNA vaccine work for HIV? Here’s the latest on the development of a vaccine for HIV.

Why The Vaccines for HIV are Elusive

Before we shed light on the question, Can mRNA vaccine work for HIV?, let’s first discuss why we still don’t have a vaccine for HIV.

An HIV infection that causes extensive damage to the immune system may progress into Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or AIDS, a condition that can result in death if not managed.

It was 40 years ago when experts reported the first case of AIDS in the world, but until now, we still don’t have a working vaccine against the virus that causes it.

But it’s not because scientists are not trying hard enough.

There are several reasons why producing a vaccine against HIV is quite a challenge. For one, HIV’s replication cycle is too fast – only a little more than 24 hours. Secondly, its genetic basis is diverse: it produces mutated copies that can combine into new strains. Finally, the virus enters the human genome swiftly – within three days of transmission.

Creating one vaccine that can take care of numerous strains is already challenging. But remember, since the infection happens quite fast, they also need the vaccine to produce adequate antibodies in just a short period.

Can mRNA vaccine work for HIV? – Two of Moderna’s mRNA Vaccines to Start Human Clinical Trial

To answer the question, Can mRNA vaccine work for HIV?, two of Moderna’s mRNA vaccines will enter human trials soon.

Phase 1 clinical trial aims to assess the vaccines’ safety and immunogenicity, checking whether it can provoke an immune response in the body’s cells and tissues.

An mRNA vaccine has mRNA strands that enter the cells. The strands carry some codes, and our body uses those codes to make proteins similar to those sitting on the HIV’s exterior. The goal is for our body to recognize these proteins and create antibodies for them. That way, when we encounter the real virus, our body’s already equipped with protection.

After the first phase, the vaccines have to undergo Phases 2 and 3, further checking for their effectiveness.

Will The Vaccines Be Enough?

Until all the necessary trials are accomplished, we cannot answer the question, can mRNA vaccine work for HIV.

However, one report concluded that “if a functional cure of HIV is possible, it will need the combination of different interventions to be successful.” That means besides the vaccine; the patient might also need medicines to reactivate:

  • HIV reservoir, which means the drugs will “shock” latent virus, and then make them active again, so the body can kill them
  • Immune checkpoint inhibitors
  • Broadly neutralizing antibodies

But the researchers also mentioned that for these strategies to work, each has to be optimized separately.

Key Takeaways

  • Scientists are having a hard time developing a vaccine for HIV because of its genetic diversity, fast replication time, and ability to cause irreversible infection in just a matter of days.
  • Now, though, two of Moderna’s mRNA vaccines will enter Phase 1 human clinical trial. It will check the vaccines’ safety and immunogenicity. After the first phase, the vaccines also need to undergo Phases 2 and 3 trials.
  • Some researchers said if there is to be a functional cure for HIV, it might use a couple of strategies like a vaccine and some drugs.
  • Until we have a cure for HIV, the best strategy is still to prevent infection. If the infection is already present, managing it with the help of a doctor should be a priority.

Learn more about HIV/AIDS here.

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Sources

What Are HIV and AIDS?
https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/about-hiv-and-aids/what-are-hiv-and-aids

A Phase 1 Study to Evaluate the Safety and Immunogenicity of eOD-GT8 60mer mRNA Vaccine (mRNA-1644) and Core-g28v2 60mer mRNA Vaccine (mRNA-1644v2-Core)
https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT05001373?term=mRNA&cond=HIV&draw=2&rank=4
Accessed August 18, 2021

Can mRNA vaccine work for HIV
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41577-021-00589-w#change-history
Accessed August 18, 2021

The first mRNA-based HIV vaccine is about to start human trials
https://www.popsci.com/health/moderna-mrna-hiv-vaccine/
Accessed August 18, 2021

In the Era of mRNA Vaccines, Is There Any Hope for HIV Functional Cure?
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8003302/
Accessed August 18, 2021

Shock and Kill Strategy
https://clinicalinfo.hiv.gov/en/glossary/shock-and-kill-strategy
Accessed August 18, 2021

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Written by Lorraine Bunag, R.N. Updated Apr 22
Medically reviewed by Michael Henry Wanat