December 1st is the annual World AIDS Day, a perfect opportunity to look at how medical research is progressing to fight the disease.
HIV is still plaguing humanity with 35 million infected people worldwide. Antiretroviral drugs do slow down the progression of the disease, but at a high cost and with long-term toxicity. More than ever, the need for a vaccine is urgent.
A current European research project seeks to block the entry of HIV into cells at mucosal sites and in the blood. Why target mucosal sites? Because 90% of HIV infections happen via the sexual route. Obtaining an immune response at this gateway could therefore mean efficiently blocking the virus and prevent it from ever entering the body.
A first clinical trial on humans has just finished to check for toxicity. In the next step, researchers will determine whether the blood and mucosal tissue of the volunteers produces the neutralizing antibodies after exposure to HIV in the lab.