Working HIV vaccine revealed, but there's a catch

A Rhesus monkey.
A Rhesus monkey. Photo credit: Getty

Scientists in California have developed a working HIV vaccine, but there's a catch - so far, they've only tested it on monkeys.

They got rhesus monkeys' immune systems to create neutralising antibodies against a Simian form of HIV very similar to the one that commonly infects humans.

"We found that neutralizing antibodies that have been induced by vaccination can protect animals against viruses that look a lot like real-world HIV," said Dennis Burton chair of Scripps Research's Department of Immunology and Microbiology.

San Diego-based Scripps, which has been working on a vaccine since the 1990s, says it's a proof-of-concept that a vaccine is possible - even against what are known as Tier 2 strains of HIV, so-called because they're harder to kill.

"Since HIV emerged, this is the first evidence we have of antibody-based protection from a Tier 2 virus following vaccination," said Matthias Pauthner, co-author of the study.

The vaccine is still "far" away from being ready from human trials however, and it only works against this one particular strain. Scripps researchers are trying to come up with a way for it to work against more strains.

The study was published in journal Immunity.