Is an HIV vaccine possible?

Nancy A. Wilson, David I. Watkins

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The road to the discovery of a vaccine for HIV has been arduous and will continue to be difficult over the ensuing twenty years. Most vaccines are developed by inducing neutralizing antibodies against the target pathogen or by using attenuated strains of the particular pathogen to engender a variety of protective immune responses. Unfortunately, simple methods of generating anti-HIV antibodies have already failed in a phase III clinical trial. While attenuated SIV variants work well against homologous challenges in non-human primates, the potential for reversion to a more pathogenic virus and recombination with challenge viruses will preclude the use of attenuated HIV in the field. It has been exceedingly frustrating to vaccinate for HIV-specific neutralizing antibodies given the enormous diversity of the Envelope (Env) glycoprotein and its well-developed glycan shield. However, there are several antibodies that will neutralize many different strains of HIV and inducing these types of antibodies in vaccinees remains the goal of a vigorous effort to develop a vaccine for HIV based on neutralizing antibodies. Given the difficulty in generating broadly reactive neutralizing antibodies, the HIV vaccine field has turned its attention to inducing T cell responses against the virus using a variety of vectors. Unfortunately, the results from Merck's phase IIb STEP trial proved to be disappointing. Vaccinees received Adenovirus type 5 (Ad5) expressing Gag, Pol, and Nef of HIV. This vaccine regimen failed to either prevent infection or reduce the level of HIV replication after challenge. These results mirrored those in non-human primate testing of Ad5 using rigorous SIV challenge models. This review will focus on recent developments in HIV vaccine development. We will deal largely with attempts to develop a T cell-based vaccine using the non-human primate SIV challenge model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)304-310
Number of pages7
JournalBrazilian Journal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Challenges
  • HIV
  • Vaccine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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