Mosaic: the HIV vaccine already being tested in several countries around the world

“Very excited“This is how the journalist Lucas Villa came out the first day that his arm was inoculated with the first dose of what in a few years could be the vaccine against HIV. The injections that are already being tested in several countries are through the Mosaic study and have reached phase 3. In other words, the world is getting closer to the existence of a vaccine against HIV.

The study does not guarantee that you received the dose. According to those responsible for the project, 50% of the volunteers who come forward will receive a saline solution instead of the vaccine. “So (unless they gave me a placebo) now they will measure the immune response of this vaccine in my body “, highlighted the volunteer Lucas Villa. The journalist spread the message that there are not only coronavirus vaccines – at a time when COVID-19 seems to outshine all other diseases. “Because there is not only a virus to stop” concluded on his twitter account:

How does this vaccine work?

The tests that are being done are on 2 experimental vaccines against HIV in which they are involved, among other organizations, the pharmaceutical company Janssen. According to the president of the State Coordinator for HIV and AIDS of Spain (CESIDA), Ramón Espacio: “It is based on adenovirus and on creating antibodies against HIV”. The study vaccines are named Ad26.Mos4.HIV and bivalent gp140. Vaccines are not made from live or dead HIV, or from human cells infected with HIV, so there is no risk of you becoming infected with HIV or causing AIDS.

Ad26.Mos4.HIV includes adenovirus type 26, a common virus that is present in daily life and can cause colds and respiratory infections. This adenovirus is designed so that the body produces proteins similar to those of HIV and allows the creation of the necessary antibodies for when the virus wants to enter the body in the future. Several artificial HIV-like proteins are included in the bivalent gp140 to elicit an immune response. According to Ramón Espacio, “It is a strange vaccine in the sense that it contains different components, with which several doses will be inoculated for a year.”

Where is it being tested?

Mosaic is still looking for volunteers for this study that is being carried out in several countries. In Europe, Spain, Poland and Italy participate; but it is also being carried out in the United States, Mexico, Brazil and Argentina. About 3,800 people are expected to participate.

Vicente Descalzo is a doctor in the STD and HIV Unit at the Val d’Hebron Hospital in Barcelona. He works in Mosaico studio and highlights for Euronews: “The idea is to test the efficacy and that from there an indication can come out. It is to try to include many participants there in order to obtain efficacy data. The previous phases of calculating the doses and to see if there may be side effects”

Who is it being supplied to?

The study is carried out on a population of men who have sex with men and transsexual people who may be at risk of becoming infected with HIV. “We are in a super early phase of the study. We are still looking for participants, it is super early to be able to have any data. It may be that there will be some intermediate analysis, but this for two years I do not think we have any data”, says Barefoot.

According to those responsible for the project, the participant must be between 18 and 60 years old, not be infected with HIV and have decided not to use pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV infection (which has been shown to be very effective in prevention). “If for some reason this person does not want to take pills or is not convinced about PrEP, then we plan to participate in other prevention or research studies such as the vaccine study, but of course, first we must offer them strategies that we know work for the patient “adds the doctor.

As in other studies of this type, neither the doctor nor the patient know if the dose of the vaccine or the placebo is being inoculated.

Why is the development of the HIV vaccine not as fast as that of COVID-19?

“HIV is a virus that mutates a lot. It replicates in a defective way and that causes you to have many mutations. HIV has a thousand times more variants than the coronavirus. HIV in one region can be very different from another, which it makes it difficult to think about how to devise a vaccine that can protect me against all the variants of HIV “, says Vicente Barefoot. “On the other hand, the most normal thing for people who pass the COVID infection is to be cured. We still do not have someone who has spontaneously cured of HIV”, adds the doctor from the Val d’Hebron Hospital. Another difference between the two viruses is the incidence number. “The incidence of HIV is lower, so you have to follow up for a longer time”, says Barefoot. The doctor adds that in the COVID investigation there has also been a greater investment.

By when will more data be known?

The president of the Spanish State Coordinator for HIV and AIDS (CESIDA). Ramón Espacios, points out that “There is already a study (with the same vaccines) that is going to be carried out in women, in countries where there is more prevalence in women than in African countries and it seems that in Africa, where the study is more advanced, they may have preliminary data at the end of this year“Spaces is hopeful within the prudence because there have already been other vaccines that have not worked. “It looks good, but we’ve had other trials and other attempts and it needs to be shown that it really works,” recalls the president of CESIDA. “You have to see that the response lasts, that the antibodies last long enough and that they have enough capacity to block the entry of the virus”, points to Space. “There have been many attempts at vaccines and then in the end the last one made in Thailand found that the efficacy was not enough, it was a little over 30%. A vaccine for HIV would need a higher efficacy.”

The vaccine would be much easier to implement in underdeveloped countries

The United Nations General Assembly has approved this Wednesday by a large majority a series of urgent measures to end AIDS by 2030, and has warned that the coronavirus pandemic has increased inequalities and worsened access to antiretrovirals, a treatments and diagnoses. 193 nations have pledged to implement a text that provides for the annual reduction of HIV infections to below 370,000, and AIDS-related deaths to less than 250,000 by 2025.

“HIV continues to be a public health problem in Spain and in Europe, but here (in the developed world) we have access to treatments. We have an incidence, let’s say it is still high and a very low mortality because people access treatments and people with HIV live well “, says the president of CESIDA. However, there are countries where access to treatment is not universal and remains very limited.“In Tanzania 30,000 people continue to die from AIDS and we are seeing it with COVID, the reality and the way to end the epidemics is by having an effective vaccine”, Space concludes.