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Biotech Medicine Science

AIDS Vaccine Is Partially Successful 317

ifchairscouldtalk writes "A Phase III 'RV 144' study in Thailand succeeded in reducing HIV infection rate in trial with 31.2% effectiveness. The study was conducted by the Thailand Ministry of Public Health and used strains of HIV common in Thailand. It is not clear whether the vaccine, which combines AIDSVAX with Aventis Pasteur ALVAC-HIV canarypox vector, known as 'vCP1521,' would work against other strains in the United States, Africa or elsewhere. Strangely, the vaccine had no effect on levels of HIV in the blood of those who did become infected, providing 'one of the most important and intriguing findings' of the trial, according to Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is one of the trial's sponsors."
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AIDS Vaccine Is Partially Successful

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  • HIV Vaccine (Score:5, Informative)

    by catmandi ( 995992 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @11:55AM (#29529631) Homepage
    I'm not normally a stickler for these, but AIDS is a syndrome, HIV is the virus that causes it. The vaccine can prevent you from acquiring HIV and thence from developing AIDS. It's not a cure, it's a preventative measure.
  • No hurry (Score:5, Funny)

    by 4D6963 ( 933028 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @11:57AM (#29529669)
    Cool! Hopefully by the time I become sexually active it will have improved much more!
    • by TiggertheMad ( 556308 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @12:10PM (#29529821) Homepage Journal
      Fortunately, that gives the the researchers plenty of time...
    • Most slashdotters won't have anything to worry about either way. Playing warcraft and evercrack while stuffing your cheese hole with doritos, cheetos, and coke all night every night is a great preventative measure against major HIV risk factors. ;)

    • by martas ( 1439879 )
      I suppose when exactly that happens depends on your karma... get it? like, not in this life? funny, right?!
      • I suppose when exactly that happens depends on your karma... get it? like, not in this life? funny, right?!

        You must be an american script writer.

        • by martas ( 1439879 )
          sorry, wrong on all accounts... well, i've been known to write a script or two, i suppose, but they weren't for actors, they were for bash.
    • Re:No hurry (Score:5, Funny)

      by mcgrew ( 92797 ) * on Thursday September 24, 2009 @12:16PM (#29529917) Homepage Journal

      Cool! Hopefully by the time I become sexually active it will have improved much more!

      How I pity you young folks that never lived through the '70s. It was a GREAT time to be a nerd. Nerds were still paraihs, but hippies were "cool", and all a nerd had to do to become a hippie was to stop getting haircuts, buy a new pair of glasses, and throw away the pocket protectors. Birth control was cheap and effective, abortions had been legalized by the SCOTUS, and there were no STDs that couldn't be cured with a shot of pennicillin.

      It was the only decade in my life (maybe in history) where strange women would walk up and say "wanna fuck?" without wanting you to buy her twenty dollars worth of crack. [slashdot.org]

      Aids killed all that. God but I miss the seventies!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by flink ( 18449 )

        ... and there were no STDs that couldn't be cured with a shot of pennicillin.

        Right, because herpes and HPV didn't exist until 1980 :P

    • Last Friday's 20/20 was about a some middle-age guy who bedded middle-age women almost every day and infected at least a dozen of them (proven in court by DNA analysis). He must of have had a very effective virus or technique, because infection usually doesnt happen in just a few times. He got 45 years for knowing recklessness. But this was less than two years of his exploits. There is suggestion it was going on for over 12 years and there are many other victims.

      The point is that some demographics thin
  • Inspiring.... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Zantac69 ( 1331461 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @11:59AM (#29529687) Journal
    ...but their conclusions.

    How in the hell could you ever do a controlled experiment like this on people if you dont control their exposure to the infection causing material? The only way you can determind improvements of real thing over placebo is if you intentionally expose the test subjects to the virus...which would be a death sentence.

    Their results could mean that the group recieving the test vaccine came into contact with the virus 31.2% less.
    • Re:Inspiring.... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by gazbo ( 517111 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @12:07PM (#29529775)
      If you managed to accidentally partition 16,402 people such that one group was exposed 31.2% less than the other, I think you could count yourself as "fairly unlucky".
      • The troubling thing is that the ones who got the vaccine and were infected were just as sick as those who got a placebo. The vaccination should have slowed the progress of the disease in the cases were it didn't prevent it. Or so one would think/hope.
      • You mean, as in all the air in your room jumps to one side and you do a total recall impersonation before it jumps back = 'fairly unlucky'.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by evanbd ( 210358 )
        Specifically, you could say you were unlucky at the 5% chance level -- that's the (approximate) odds of getting results more extreme than this, given the number of people in each group that actually got infected, purely by dumb luck, if the vaccine did exactly nothing. (74 vs 51, out of a total of 16402, broken into two groups; that's just using a poisson approximation, since I don't have the precise group sizes, which gives 2.06 standard deviations, or significant at the 5% level.)
    • Well, if you only accepted individuals that engaged in high risk behaviors and stated that they had no intention of stopping their behavior, then it might be more accurate.
    • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )

      Their results could mean that the group recieving the test vaccine came into contact with the virus 31.2% less.

      And how the fuck would that work? They're random groups, no one knows who got what. That means anyone is still as likely to get in contact with HIV. If you took two groups and gave them both placebo then you might have something like 75 in on and 70 in the other, cause that's the kind of margin the randomness allows for. 74 and 51 clearly means that it's something the vaccine does.

    • Re:Inspiring.... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by modmans2ndcoming ( 929661 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @12:16PM (#29529931)

      here is how:

      1)get the infection rate of the population
      2)take a random sample from the population
      3)do a double blind study of the vaccine
      4)at the end of x years, compare the rate of infection of both your experimental group and your control group. If the control group is with in the statistical bounds of the population infection rate and the experimental group's infection rate is below that rate at a statisticaly significant level, then you can conclude the vaccine has a positive impact on infection rates.

    • Stats 101 (Score:3, Insightful)

      Their results could mean that the group recieving the test vaccine came into contact with the virus 31.2% less.

      No, you don't need to control their exposure. You can study the infection rate for the general population, and provided that your study group isn't unusually different from the general population (say, by being all sexually active gay men), you can expect a similar infection rate over time.

      yes, there are potentially statistical deviations that could occur, but the larger the sample group and
  • by alexhs ( 877055 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @12:03PM (#29529729) Homepage Journal

    How is that news for nerds ?

    None of us will ever get laid, so that's not stuff that matters...


    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      Funny, but you forgot about blood transfusions. While it's extremely rare for contaminated blood to be used in the U.S. and many other western nations, it's a very real possibility for a lot of the world.
    • HIV can be sexually transmitted, but it's also transmitted via blood transfusions and a few other mechanisms. Even nerds get blood transfusions. Some nerds work in hospitals and so are exposed to the virus on a regular basis, and an accident with a needle can cause infection.
    • by martas ( 1439879 )
      yeah, but it doesn't mean it can't satisfy our perpetual hunger for coolness and excitement from things that have nothing to do whatsoever with our own lives, at least in the foreseeable future. just like news on quantum computers, or some new concept for a space elevator, or some new metamaterial that maybe possibly will allow moore's law to continue holding in a distant, hypothetical future.

      i'm just sayin'...
  • Effectiveness (Score:4, Insightful)

    by LightPhoenix7 ( 1070028 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @12:03PM (#29529733)
    While this is excellent news, and intriguing scientifically, an effectiveness of 31.8% is practically useless in vaccinating a population. Typically you need at least 70% of your population (varies based on virus) vaccinated before you start to see the effects of herd immunity. Even if they vaccinated everyone in Thailand, you wouldn't get this effect.

    Furthermore, the low effectiveness is actually a liability; the end result could be mutations in the HIV virus that make it immune to the vaccine. This is part of the reason why the influenza vaccine has limited effectiveness - influenza, like HIV, has a tendency to mutate quickly. If a new strain comes along, like H1N1 for influenza, you're defenseless.

    Finally, I think there's a problem with how the vaccine will be perceived. If the vaccine is only 30% effective, I think people will see that as being too risky to even get the shot. There's already (too much IMO) FUD out there against vaccines in general. If you think that you can get influenza from the flu vaccine, there's a strong aversion to taking the HIV vaccine. For a 30% chance at being immune, that's no good. If it were 100%, that would be a totally different story.
    • False dichotomy. You are simply wrong when you say anything but herd immunity is useless. The people who don't die of AIDS thanks to this vaccine would very much disagree with you.

    • by gclef ( 96311 )

      Ye, gods, if ever there was a comment that needs an RTFA, it's yours.

      There are two direct quotes in the article that make it clear this is not a vaccine that will ever be made available to the public because it's not effective enough. The story here is that a vaccine with statistically interesting effectiveness is *possible*. We weren't even sure that one was up till now.

    • Re:Effectiveness (Score:4, Insightful)

      by felipekk ( 1007591 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @12:29PM (#29530105) Journal

      I think the big deal here is that they were able to create something that has an effectiveness greater than 0.

      I'm not an expert on the subject, but I guess it's easier to go up from 30% effective than from 0% effective.

  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @12:19PM (#29529985)

    But I thought AIDS was sent by God as a scourge of teh gheys. So God must hate the 68.8% it doesn't work for, then.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by sorak ( 246725 )

      Have you ever considered that maybe God loves the unborn AIDS viruses more?

  • Once you've had AIDS (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MillionthMonkey ( 240664 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @01:23PM (#29530739)
    The existing battery of drugs is enough to put HIV into remission. Your immune system will remain healthy and the virus particles will essentially disappear. But it's somewhere inside you; if you stop taking those drugs, it eventually comes back although you may have to wait.

    HIV has long been known to hide somewhere in the body after drugs have eliminated the actual virus particles. They found where recently; it integrates its sequence into the DNA of T-cells, and the promoter at the start of the viral sequence is capped by a repressor protein. Once it comes off its DNA binding site, viral proteins start getting transcribed again.

    They actually developed a drug that can kick it off there and make your AIDS come back again.
  • by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Thursday September 24, 2009 @02:07PM (#29531299)

    I have developed my own vaccine to HIV!

    Simply subscribing to Slashdot makes you statistically 50% less susceptible to HIV!

    I will take my 1 million dollar award in ten 100,000 dollar bills.

    Seriously the study needs to be repeated and verified before anyone gets too excited.

    It is not surprising that this was developed in Thailand due to the large sex trade there. Which makes me wonder about the demographic of the test subjects. Because of the large number of sex trade workers, any significant number in one group or the other will taint the results. If they were ALL sex trade workers that would be something different, however the article does not examine that detail. It could be that one group just happened to get 30% more sex trade workers than the other.

    Also Slashdot I hate you and your stupid editor (not the person, the thing I am trying to type in).

"This is lemma 1.1. We start a new chapter so the numbers all go back to one." -- Prof. Seager, C&O 351