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The large clinical trial of a vaccine against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, conducted by Johnson & Johnson in five countries in sub-Saharan Africa, has been halted for lack of conclusive results, the company announced on Tuesday (August 30th). American pharmaceutical.
This is a big disappointment in the fight against this disease which affects 38 million people worldwide, much of it on the African continent, and against which the search for a vaccine has proved unsuccessful for decades.
The trial, named “Imbokodo” and started in 2017, included approximately 2,600 young women between the ages of 18 and 35 in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Women and girls accounted for 63% of new infections in 2020 in this region.
Some participants received four injections of the vaccine over a year, and others received a placebo. After two years after the first injection, 51 of the 1,079 participants who received the vaccine had contracted HIV, compared with 63 of the 1,109 participants who received a placebo.
Even though the vaccine was well tolerated, its efficacy was therefore only 25%. “In view of these results, the trial “Imbokodo” will not continue “Johnson & Johnson said in a statement.
“A formidable scientific challenge”
“While we are disappointed that the candidate vaccine did not provide a sufficient level of protection against HIV infection (…), this study gives us important scientific results for the continued quest for an HIV vaccine. “said Paul Stoffels, Scientific Director of Johnson & Johnson, quoted in the statement.
This vaccine uses “Viral vector” – the same as that used for its vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. A common type of virus, called adenovirus, is modified to be made harmless and carry genetic information that allows the body to fight off the target virus.
Another trial, called “Mosaico”, tests a vaccine with a different composition on another population, men who have sex with men or transgender people, in the United States, Latin America and Europe, where d other strains of the virus are circulating. This trial will continue, Johnson & Johnson announced. It is expected to conclude in March 2024.
“Developing a safe and effective vaccine to prevent HIV infection has proven to be a formidable scientific challenge”Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAD), which partially funded the trials, said in a statement. “While this is certainly not the result of the study that we were hoping for, we must use the knowledge gained during the trial “Imbokodo” and continue our efforts to find a vaccine that will protect against HIV ”, he added.