Why Moderna’s mRNA candidate brings new hope for an HIV vaccine

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What is the News?

Moderna has announced the human trials for two HIV vaccines, namely mRNA-1644 and mRNA-1644v2-Core.

About the two HIV Vaccines

The two vaccines are based on the same platform — mRNA — as Moderna’s Covid vaccine. 

Working: The vaccine is expected to work similar to the Covid-19 vaccine — by getting the body’s cells to produce the HIV’s spike protein triggering an immune response.

Why is it difficult to make an HIV Vaccine?

HIV has a spike-shaped virus protein known as Env or the envelope protein.

HIV tends to change its envelope so rapidly that it is difficult to provide any antibody cover. Additionally, the envelope proteins are covered by a sugar coating that affects the generation of an immune response.

Moreover, even when antibodies are made, by the time they are produced, the virus rapidly evolves and the antibodies do not neutralise the virus. This rapid mutation allows the virus to escape the antibody response.

Hence, because of this, previously inactivated forms of the virus and adenovirus vector-based vaccines have been tried but have not worked.

Expected Benefits of m-RNA Vaccine:

mRNA-based vaccines are believed to be a promising alternative because they do not involve the use of a live virus, can be made relatively easily, can be quickly deployed and safely administered.

Global HIV burden

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HIV has claimed 36.3 million lives so far. There were an estimated 37.7 million living with HIV at the end of 2020.

However, there is still no cure for HIV. But with increasing access to effective prevention, diagnosis and care, HIV infection has become a manageable chronic health condition in recent years.

HIV burden in India

According to the National AIDS Control Organization’s India HIV Estimation 2019 report, there were an estimated 23.48 lakh people living with HIV in 2019. 

Overall, the estimated adult (15-49) HIV prevalence trend has been declining in India since the peak in 2000 and has been stabilising in recent years.

Source: This post is based on the articleWhy Moderna’s mRNA candidate brings new hope for an HIV vaccinepublished in Indian Express on 7th September 2021.

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