China claims HIV vaccine trials successful

Beijing: Chinese scientists claimed to have successfully carried out the first phase of a clinical trial of an HIV vaccine and geared up to launch the second stage in a few months.

Shao Yiming, chief expert of China`s National Centre for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention, told China Daily that the second phase of experiments on the vaccine, which has been approved by the national drug administration, "is likely to start in three or four months".

Work on the HIV vaccine was one of the 16 major science and technology projects that made significant progress during the nation`s 11th Five-Year Plan (2006-2010), he said.

Generally, a vaccine to cure an infectious disease needs to pass three phases of clinical trials, to evaluate its effect on healthy people, to test its effectiveness on people exposed to a risk of infection, and to evaluate its impact on high-risk groups.

Although a number of countries have completed second-phase tests, none has yet reached stage three.

China has about 7.40 lakh infected with HIV and AIDS. The number is estimated to reach 1.2 million by the end of 2015, said Hao Yao, deputy director of the Ministry of Health`s disease prevention and control bureau.

China started research on an HIV vaccine in 1993 by conducting clinical trials with a vaccine produced outside the country.

In 2005, Chinese scientists developed a new vaccine using the smallpox vaccine as a carrier.

"The smallpox vaccine has a long history and wide application, so we chose it for its reliability and its higher immunogenic potential," Shao said.

Clinical trials of the new vaccine started in 2007 and late last year it was proved to be able to induce an immune reaction in the cells of healthy people.

"The smallpox vaccine has been used on hundreds of millions of people. All Chinese people under 25 have been vaccinated," said Shao, pointing out that this is a unique characteristic among the "more than 100 ongoing experiments in the world".

If the vaccine proves successful, it will have a huge impact on the nation`s HIV prevention policy, Shao said.