A vaccine works by presenting non-infectious components of the virus or bacteria (also called immunogens or antigens) to the body's immune system, causing an immune reaction. This “primes” the immune system so that when it is exposed to the real pathogen, the body’s immune system can aggressively attack the virus or bacteria since it will already recognize key parts of the pathogen that was first introduced in the vaccine.
While we have been able to make vaccines for some of the world’s deadliest diseases, we have not been able to find one for HIV due to a number of scientific challenges. One reason is that scientists still do not know what type of immune response is needed to prevent HIV infection and control HIV replication. Scientists have, however, begun to shed light on this by analyzing data from an HIV vaccine trial conducted in Thailand (RV144) that showed modest success in preventing HIV infection. These analyses are providing some hint as to what type of immune responses may be needed and will help inform future clinical trial design. Research focused on basic vaccine discovery, particularly the interaction between HIV and the human immune system, will also help address many of these unanswered questions and can provide insight for the design and development of new and more effective vaccine candidates, some that use different HIV vaccine designs and strategies. Researchers are working to design and test novel ways to present HIV proteins to the immune system, as well as develop new antigen-adjuvant vaccine formulations.
Last Updated September 28, 2015