The EPIICAL project, supported by ViiV Healthcare, represents the largest international consortium of well-known scientists involved in the management and treatment of paediatric HIV infection (www.epiical.org). The researchers collaborate together with the aim of identifying new therapeutic strategies that will allow the safe interruption of antiretroviral drug treatment with the control of the HIV replication, the so called virological remission. Encouraging progress and results were recently presented at the EPIICAL General Assembly meeting, which took place in Madrid in November, leading to the initiation of new clinical studies as one of the next steps resulting from the progress of the research.
A European multi-center study, called CARMA, which through innovative methods aims to analyze the viral reservoir and the immune system, has just completed its recruitment.
In parallel, a study was carried out in several African centres involving HIV-infected children, who started therapy at a very early stage, to better understand, through close checks, the virological and immunological characteristics of children with more ‘chance’ of achieving virological remission. To reach this remission goal, high hopes are being placed on a therapeutic HIV vaccine, the development of which is being supported by a recently awarded grant from the National Institute of Health (USA). This represents the first “proof of concept” pilot study of the EPIICAL project that will be performed in three countries, namely Italy, Thailand and South Africa. The success of this vaccine could have an impact on the reduction of the viral reservoir and facilitate the possibility of virological remission.
These studies confirm the great collaborative effort that exists between the physicians and researchers involved in the EPIICAL project with the goal of accelerating the search for new treatment options for both children and adults with HIV infection.
Prof Rossi, who along with Prof Giaquinto, leads the consortium is confident: “The results achieved so far, make us hope for an effective and safe vaccine that will change the history of the disease”.