A potential breakthrough in the quest to prevent HIV and AIDS has collided with sensitivities about testing expensive drugs in poor parts of the world. Three years ago, scientists at the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) in Bethesda, Maryland, isolated a pair of potent monoclonal antibodies that neutralized more than 90% of the HIV strains that infect people (X. Wu et al. Science 329,856–861; 2010). Now, one of those antibodies, VRC01 (named after the institute’s Vaccine Research Center, VRC), is being readied for a clinical trial in Africa.
But the proposed trial — in 3,000 African infants born to breastfeeding, HIV-infected mothers — is drawing fire from critics. They cite the therapy’s steep cost and lack of proven efficacy in adults, and say that an affordable way to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission already exists. Those points are likely to surface at a meeting in Entebbe, Uganda, on 22–23 January, where attendees will pound out principles for conducting prevention trials in breastfeeding babies born to HIV-positive mothers in poor countries.
Click the header link above to read the full article.