Vaginal HIV vaccine being studied

Sept. 22, 2005 at 2:41 PM

BELFAST, Northern Ireland, Sept. 22 (UPI) -- Researchers in Northern Ireland are investigating a new approach to fighting HIV, a vaginal vaccine that would work over the course of a year.

The research is being conducted by a team from Queen's University in Belfast and is funded by a $2.3 million grant from funds given to St. George's Hospital Medical School in London by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Wellcome Trust.

Professor David Woolfson of the School of Pharmacy at Queens said the vaccine -- probably topical rather than injected -- will target the immune cells in the lining of the vagina.

"It is hoped that continuous, controlled vaginal delivery of such a specially engineered vaccine, which has never been tried before, will provide immunity where it is most needed, at the site of viral entry, and in turn induce whole body immunity," Woolfson told the BBC.

Woolfson said conventional immunization just does not seem to work for HIV because the virus mutates so rapidly.

"Continuous vaccine delivery to induce immunity where the virus first enters the body is an exciting concept but it will take time, multi-disciplinary scientific skills and not a little good fortune to achieve," he said.

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