This new vaccine is helping five people live free of HIV

Blood vials

A new vaccine therapy designed to combat HIV has proved to help five people live free of the virus, without the help of daily drugs.

The vaccines, which were developed by Tomas Hanke and his colleagues at the University of Oxford, began testing three years ago in Spain.

24 people were given the vaccines, as well as antiretroviral drugs (ART).

This year, 15 people from the sample received a booster dose of the vaccines, three doses of romidepsin (a cancer drug which has potential for “flushing” out HIV), as well as another booster.

At this stage in the trials, participants stopped taking ART.

For 10 of the participants, they quickly had to return to taking ART as the virus bounced back, but in the remaining five people they immune systems proved strong enough to suppress the virus without the need for supporting drugs.

One person in the study has been off of ART for seven months now, with the other four being off the drug for between 14 weeks and six months.

Scientists are beginning to investigate into why only a third of people reacted to the therapy, but insist that a small success is still a step forward.

Beatriz Mothe, who ran the trial at the IrsiCaixa AIDS research Institute in Barcelona, said that in theory the discovery is great, but previous treatments that seemed to “cure” HIV have returned later.

Mothe stressed that this may be different, as the therapy launches a “double-pronged” attack to combat HIV.

“There’s a long way to go,” she said. “But we’re on the right path”.