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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, April 8, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 14
Progress on HIV vaccine, Chinese researchers say
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Progress on HIV vaccine, Chinese researchers say

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

Chinese researchers have successfully concluded the first stage in clinical trials of a new HIV vaccine, according to the country's top HIV/AIDS expert.

Shao Yiming, lead researcher for the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, told China Daily on April 4 that the second phase of experiments on the vaccine 'is likely to start in three or four months.'

China Daily is an English-language newspaper published by the Chinese government and intended to reflect the government's policies for a non-Chinese audience.

A vaccine to prevent infectious disease normally needs to pass three phases of clinical trials - to evaluate its effect on healthy people, to test its effectiveness on people exposed to a risk of infection, and to evaluate its impact on high-risk groups.

The vaccine project has already been approved by the national drug administration.

It is one of the 16 major science and technology projects that made 'significant progress during the nation's 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010),' according to China Daily.

China started research on an HIV vaccine in 1993 by conducting clinical trials with a vaccine produced outside the country.

In 2005, Chinese scientists developed a new vaccine using the smallpox vaccine as a carrier.

Clinical trials of the new vaccine started in 2007 and, late last year, it was proved to be able to induce an immune reaction in the cells of healthy people.

'The smallpox vaccine has a long history and wide application, so we chose it for its reliability and its higher immunogenic potential,' Shao said on a Chinese government website.

'The smallpox vaccine has been used on hundreds of millions of people. All Chinese people under 25 have been vaccinated,' Shao continued, pointing out that this is a unique characteristic among the 'more than 100 ongoing experiments in the world.'

If the vaccine proves successful, it will have a huge impact on the nation's HIV prevention policy, Shao said in an interview with China Central Television.

According to UNAIDS, China has around 740,000 people living with HIV/AIDS. The number is estimated to reach 1.2 million by the end of 2015.

China is estimated to have a total population of 1.3 billion.

In February, China's State Council called for greater efforts to control the spread of HIV and improve medical services for HIV/AIDS patients, including intensified research efforts and international cooperation to develop new medicines and technologies.

Authorities should consider increasing the supply of affordable anti-retroviral drugs to those in need under the national medical insurance plan and do more to reduce the costs of the drugs, the government said in a February circular.

The government also stressed efforts to improve care for HIV/AIDS patients and protect their rights, particularly in health care services, employment, and schooling.

The State Council also called for more research efforts as well as international cooperation to develop new medicines and technologies to target HIV/AIDS.

A vaccine being developed at the University of Western Ontario in Canada was reported to be ready for initial human trials in June 2009.

More recently, the drug Truvada - which has been used as a treatment for people with HIV/AIDS - was touted as a possible vaccine, but tests showed only a 40% effectiveness rate in preventing new HIV infections.

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