The other pandemic for which a vaccine is being sought

The world is no longer the same since the coronavirus appeared in our lives. All the countries of the world have passed one or more confinements, quarantines, contagions, restrictions, curfews, masks, mutations or variants of a virus that has forced us to live differently, at half gas – you could say, yes- because nothing has ever been the same. And it is not because thousands of people have died, here in Spain about 83,000. This figure makes the hair stand on end and hides the pain of hundreds of families. There are other numbers that, however, show optimism and hope. Our country has just exceeded 30 million vaccinated with the complete guideline. The vaccine or vaccines have stopped deaths and although without lowering our guard because the infections continue, it has allowed us to imagine an end to this pandemic.

There is another pandemic for which an end is also being sought. 40 years ago the first case of HIV was detected in Spain and with it the stigma arose. Almost 38 million people in the world currently live with the virus, here between 140,000 and 170,000 of which one in five is undiagnosed. According to the Ministry of Health, every year 3,000 new cases are detected in our country. Current treatments, antiretrovirals for AIDS patients or PrEP – pre-exposure prophylaxis – for those who may be at risk of contracting HIV, have reduced mortality considerably by equaling life expectancy with respect to those who live without it. virus. And there is a great glow on the horizon because the HIV vaccine has just entered phase III of the clinical trial.

The Mosaic project with HIV

Mosaico is a project in which 8 countries from America and Europe participate, including Spain. Pharmaceutical Janssen is responsible for this vaccine against HIV that has reached phase III of a clinical trial for the first time. The scientists’ race against the clock will be joined by about 4,000 volunteers, 250 in various Spanish hospitals in Madrid, Valencia, Córdoba or Barcelona. “I was encouraged to participate in the trials because I have friends with HIV and I can help others not to suffer what they have suffered.” Juan is one of the volunteers who is participating in the clinical trial. “Although it has been a difficult and thoughtful decision, I think it is a historic opportunity. The sooner the volunteers enter the trial, the sooner the results will begin to be known and an effective vaccine against HIV can be developed. ” He is Javier, another volunteer from Madrid. “There is enormous merit to be recognized. The one of the scientists who have continued investigating when all the funds were destined to find the vaccine against COVID and even so they have struggled to achieve an end to another virus that has killed more than 36 million people around the world ”.

The research is very complicated, as explained by Vicente Descalzo, a doctor in the STD and HIV Unit at the Val d’Hebron Hospital in Barcelona, ​​one of the centers that Mosaico is developing in our country. “It is a virus that has a lot of diversity, it mutates a lot, there are many types and subtypes of HIV in the world. That is why it is difficult to develop a vaccine that can generate immunity against the virus. It is the greatest difficulty we face ”, he explains.

“Treatment for HIV is necessary, also for those at risk, but fundamentally we need a vaccine to be able to put an end to the pandemic. Although there are specific treatments, they are very expensive ”. “We have a long way to go. When we conclude the vaccination in the volunteers, the follow-ups will begin. The last patient we follow is likely to be in 2023. There will be no conclusive study until then. It is not ruled out that an intermediate one is made, to know the progress, but it is still too early, “says Dr. Barefoot.

The fact that Spain is participating in this project is very positive. For Margarita del Val, virologist and immunologist and also a researcher at the CSIC (Higher Council for Scientific Research) “our country is capable of carrying out precisely designed clinical trials outside our borders, we have to learn from it to design our own trials to be leaders, the problem is that there is little technological and industrial development and that is why there are hardly any clinical trials that start from here ”.

What is the trial and how long does it last?

They are several different injections that are intended to create immunity against the virus, the principle of any vaccine. 6 vaccines are administered in 4 different visits preceded by analytics to see how the drug is working, that is if they have administered it to you because there is also a 50 percent chance that you will be injected with a placebo. The trial lasts about two and a half years. In the first 12 months the drug is administered and in the remaining time the follow-up is done.

Volunteer profile

Cisgender men (who identify with the gender you were born with) and trans people who have sex with other cisgender men and / or trans people. Volunteers without HIV. They must be between 18 and 60 years old.

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