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Sep 08, 2015
Therapeutic HIV immunization is intended to induce new HIV-specific cellular immune responses and to reduce viral load, possibly permitting extended periods without antiretroviral drugs. A multigene, multi-subtype A, B, C HIV-DNA vaccine (HIVIS) has been used in clinical trials in both children and adults with the aim of improving and broadening the infected individuals' immune responses. Despite the different country locations, different regimens and the necessary variations in assays performed, this is, to our knowledge, the first attempt to compare children's and adults' responses to a particular HIV vaccine. Ten vertically HIV-infected children aged 4-16 years were immunized during antiretroviral therapy (ART). Another ten children were blindly recruited as controls. Both groups continued their antiretroviral treatment during and after vaccinations. Twelve chronically HIV-infected adults were vaccinated, followed by repeated structured therapy interruptions (STI) of their antiretroviral treatment. The adult group included four controls, receiving placebo vaccinations. The HIV-DNA vaccine was generally well tolerated, and no serious adverse events were registered in any group. In the HIV-infected children, an increased specific immune response to Gag and RT proteins was detected by antigen-specific lymphoproliferation. Moreover, the frequency of HIV-specific CD8+ T-cell lymphocytes releasing perforin was significantly higher in the vaccinees than the controls. In the HIV-infected adults, increased CD8+ T-cell responses to Gag, RT and viral protease peptides were detected. No augmentation of HIV-specific lymphoproliferative responses were detected in adults after vaccination. In conclusion, the HIV-DNA vaccine can elicit new HIV-specific cellular immune responses, particularly to Gag antigens, in both HIV-infected children and adults. Vaccinated children mounted transient new HIV-specific immune responses, including both CD4+ T-cell lymphoproliferation and late CD8+ T-cell responses. In the adult cohort, primarily CD8+ T-cell responses related to MHC class I alleles were noted. However, no clinical benefits with respect to viral load reduction were ascribable to the vaccinations alone. No severe adverse effects related to the vaccine were found in either cohort, and no virological failures or drug resistances were detected.

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