HIV vaccine development: a subtype E-specific strategy
Brown AE, McNeil JG
Southeast Asian J Trop Med Public Health 1998 Jun;29(2):377-82
The pandemic of HIV/AIDS consists of multiple foci with distinct epidemiological characteristics. Among the approximately one million Southeast Asians infected with HIV, subtype (clade) E infections predominate. This subtype, a recombinant virus comprised of a clade A core (gag) gene and a mosaic clade A/clade E envelope (env) gene, became broadly epidemic in Thailand beginning in 1989. Since then, subtype E HIV has become increasingly prevalent throughout Southeast Asia. Consistent with the recent introduction of clade E HIV, the diversity of Southeast Asian subtype E viruses is narrow (6% nucleotide diversity across env). Since neutralizing antibodies may play a protective role against HIV infection, and are relatively clade specific for genotype E viruses, a subtype E-derived candidate vaccine tested in Southeast Asia would provide an optimal test of vaccine concept. It would also provide, for the first time to a developing region of the world, a non-B clade candidate vaccine designed specifically for the local epidemic. A consortium of industry (Chiron Vaccines and Pasteur Merieux Connaught), academic (Mahidol and Chiang Mai Universities) and military (United States and Royal Thai Army Medical Departments) medicine is working together to develop and test HIV vaccines for the genotype E epidemic. A genotype B recombinant glycoprotein (rgp)120 candidate vaccine has undergone phase I/II testing in Thailand and confirmed to be safe and immunogenic in this ethnic group. An rgp120 (E) has been produced and a phase I/II trial of the bivalent product (B/E) is in the final stages of approval. This vaccine construct is designed to elicit humoral immune responses. To augment these antibody responses with CD8+ CTL responses, an E-specific, live-vectored vaccine is being developed which will be used in conjunction with rgp120 in a second vaccine approach. Canarypox (ALVAC) constructs containing multiple HIV genes (gag/pol/env) currently designed for the subtype B epidemics will be modified to contain a clade E env gene sequence. After predetermined milestones have been met, these two subtype E-specific candidate vaccines will be assessed for protection in a large collaborative efficacy trial. Since neither animal models nor laboratory assays are validated as predictive of HIV vaccine efficacy, it must be through such a phase III trial that vaccine-induced protection and immunologic correlates will be determined.