We determined if the genetic adjuvants, granulocyte-macrophage colony stimulating factor (GM-CSF) and B7-2, could improve the immunogenicity and efficacy of an HIV-2 DNA vaccine. The vaccine consisted of the HIV-2 tat, nef, gag, and env genes synthesized using optimized codons and formulated with cationic liposomes. Baboons (Papio cynocephalus hamadryas) were immunized by the intramuscular, intradermal, and intranasal routes with these expression constructs and challenged with HIV-2UC2by the intravaginal route. In the first month after HIV-2 vaginal challenge, the baboons receiving the HIV-2 DNA vaccine with or without the genetic adjuvants had significant reductions in the viral loads in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) (P=0.028) while the reductions in their plasma viremia were suggestive of a protective effect (P=0.1). These data demonstrate that partial protection against HIV-2 vaginal challenge, as measured by reduced viral load, can be achieved using only a DNA vaccine formulation. © 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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