Experimental mRNA vaccine for HIV tested on mice and monkeys

Two light brown monkeys hug, one looks into the camera
Rhesus macaques hugging each other, photo: Zane Michael Cooper via Canva

Mice and monkeys have been used to test an experimental HIV vaccine based on mRNA technology, according to a study published in Nature Medicine. The animal tests were done at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in the United States.

Mice first received the vaccine and were then given the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). According to scientists, the unvaccinated mice got less ill than the vaccinated mice when they were injected with HIV.

Scientists then gave rhesus macaques the experimental messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) vaccine. The team went on to give a group of vaccinated and unvaccinated monkeys HIV anally because this is an important route for HIV transmission in humans, scientists said.

Two of the seven vaccinated macaques remained uninfected. The others got infected after eight weeks. Unvaccinated animals became infected after three weeks. What happened to the animals after the tests is unknown, but usually, animals either die during tests or are killed after.

Scientists said they would try to improve the vaccination and test it on more animals before testing the vaccine on humans.

However, research has shown that 90% of drugs tested on animals fail in humans. And those pharmaceutical drugs that do make it through are often labelled with warnings due to their harmful effects, Jarrod Bailey, director of science at Animal Free Research UK, told The Animal Reader in an earlier interview about testing vaccines on animals.

“When something looks to be safe or free from toxic effects in animals, it tells you next to nothing. Nothing at all about how likely that drug is to be safe in humans”, Bailey said.

All those animal data that many researchers worldwide collect say very little about how effective the drug will be on humans, he added. He explained that because of their genetic differences, researchers have to accept animals models can never be good reliable models for humans.

Scientists need to start looking at other ways to test the effectiveness of vaccines and drugs. He mentioned more effective human-specific techniques like organ on a chip and micro-dosing, which can provide all necessary data about a new drug without the senseless killing of animals.

The Animal Reader is a small independent news platform with daily posts about issues affecting animals.

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