There is an urgent need for active immunization strategies that, if administered shortly after birth, could protect infants in developing countries from acquiring human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection through breast-feeding. Better knowledge of the immunogenic properties of vaccine candidates in infants and of the effect of maternal antibodies on vaccine efficacy will aid in the development of such a neonatal HIV vaccine. Simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) infection of infant macaques is a useful animal model of pediatric HIV infection with which to address these questions. Groups of infant macaques were immunized at birth and 3 weeks of age with either modified vaccinia virus Ankara (MVA) expressing SIV Gag, PoI, and Env (MVA-SIVgpe) or live-attenuated SIVmac1A11. One MVA-SIVgpe-immunized group had maternally derived anti-SIV antibodies prior to immunization. Animals were challenged orally at 4 weeks of age with a genetically heterogeneous stock of virulent SIVmac251. Although all animals became infected, the immunized animals mounted better antiviral antibody responses, controlled virus levels more effectively, and had a longer disease-free survival than the unvaccinated infected monkeys. Maternal antibodies did not significantly reduce the efficacy of the MVA-SIVgpe vaccine. In conclusion, although the tested vaccines delayed the onset of AIDS, further studies are warranted to determine whether a vaccine that elicits stronger early immune responses at the time of virus exposure may be able to prevent viral infection or AIDS in infants.
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