Microbiology: Journal Review
“Experimental Vaccine Partially Protects Monkeys from HIV-Like Infection”
Many websites are available for serious researchers to access and share information. Unfortunately the mass media for the most part does not offer journalists with expertise in science. People are interested in the health of their families and need to know about medical research. The www.ScienceDaily.com is a website that offers the most recent research and scientific news in non-scientific language. This paper reviews an article from the ScienceDaily.com website. Three scientific research websites are evaluated.
Too many people are being infected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) so scientists are working hard to find a vaccine to help the human immune system fight the virus. If a virus enters your body’s bloodstream a defensive response ‘turns on’ to protect you. The foreign body which may be a virus, a toxin or bacterial infection is called an ‘antigen.’ The antigen is sent to the lymph nodes where it becomes part of a macrophage. The macrophage signals the T-cells to start producing the antibodies which can attack the antigens. (Aids.gov, n.d.)
HIV is such a difficult challenge because it can quickly replicate a part of the immune defense system. HIV can “incorporate a key protein in that self-protection mechanism, (known as) CD59, and by doing so makes itself appear to be one of the body’s normal cells, not an infective agent” (NIH, 2012,). One way to help the immune system may be to trick the virus by developing a vaccine with antibodies that “latch onto the virus surface protein” (NIH, 2012). For example ScienceDigest.com has reported that a new grant has been awarded to continue work on a vaccine using this hypothesis and to also learn the mechanism between the virus and CD59 (Indiana, 2012).
Humans cannot be used in testing until the necessary safety issues have been resolved. That is why research scientists use animals to first tests vaccines. The trials that use animals also help the scientists develop more efficient testing methodologies. The part of the National Institute of Health (NIH) which does this type of research is the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (HIAID).
The article on ScienceDaily.com is very short. It is a summary only three paragraphs long. The summary includes enough information so the reader can understand that the research scientists used appropriate scientific method. A reader not familiar with medical terminology can still understand a lot about how the science is done.
Here are some examples of how the article presents a simplified version of the research. (a) The research problem is clearly described as “new vaccine research” to find the most important ingredients needed to develop an HIV vaccine research. (b) An advantage to using monkeys is explained as an opportunity to design a good method for when the time comes to use human participants. (c) The units of measurement were explained in easily accessible words for instance “the likelihood to become infected per exposure” is stated as a percentage (NIH, 2012).
The article does not describe the instruments or the technology used. Lists of data are not included. Information about the statistical analysis of the data is not added. But the article does allude to the appropriate treatment of the data because of comparisons to previous trials and the plan to design early-stage clinical trials for humans based on the research results. And the web link to the original research paper is available at the end of the summary. So if people are interested in more detailed information; they will easily be able to access it.
The description of the most important reaction within the cell at the molecular level is described very well. The article explains that the researchers were looking for the vaccine that would best protect the monkeys from SIV (NIH, 2012).
The sentences are designed to hold a lot of information yet remain true to the research. At the same time the information must be understandable to the readers. Making the material accessible to a general audience gives people a chance to keep up on innovations in medical research. Not only that, it also discourages the spread of medical myths that can be very tenacious and hard to discourage.
The results were explained in a way that it was easy to understand the procedure. Participants in the control group were given a placebo and the other participants were given the “Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) prime-boost vaccine” (NIH, 2012). Other research with importance to the study was mentioned. So readers could understand that this was not a unique subject of research.
The ScienceDirect.com website offers a synopsis of new research in language that is accessible to a wide audience. For example the title on the ScienceDaily.com website is “Experimental Vaccine Partially Protects Monkeys from HIV-Like Infection.” The title of the original research article from the science journal Nature is “Vaccine protection against acquisition of neutralization-resistant SIV challenges in rhesus monkeys.” Upon reading the title non-scientists would immediately turn to something else to read even though the research is important. That is why having websites like ScienceDaily.com is so important; people will read about important scientific research. They will become more comfortable with the subject and more confident about what is happening in the world of medical research. (NIH, 2012; Barouch et al., 2012)
I think the research discussed in the article is very exciting. The research included a control group which was given a placebo. Also the monkeys who did become infected were checked for the quantity of virus in their blood to compare to the control group. I feel this is well done. It seems to be both reliable and reproducible methodology (but the number of participants was not reported).
The article describes two important results. (a) The research identified an important ingredient in the vaccine. (b) Evidence was gathered that the mechanism for “preventing infection” and the mechanism for “controlling viral replication” are quite different. (NIH, 2012)
The problem I have with the article (that is the summary on ScienceDigest.com) is that no information is given about the sample size. Also we do not know if the monkeys used were in optimum health. I would have to change my optimistic view of the report if a low number of participants were used and/or if the monkeys were not in good health. Without knowing that information I need to qualify my assumptions that the research methodology was good; not enough information is given for me to know for sure.
The implications of this research could help save lives in the general population so I think it is very important research. I know that HIV is still a terrible health problem in many parts of the world including the USA. If a successful vaccine is developed most importantly it will save lives. There are other advantages, too. It will lessen the burden on health care providers and it should lower insurance costs.
In conclusion I would like to say that I am positively impressed with the ScienceDaily.com website. They make a good presentation of the articles they have available, they offer daily updates and the authors of the scientific research do a good job.
I also found the government website on HIV/AIDS to be easy to use. It also offered practical information and covered a lot of questions people have on the subject.
Barouch, D. H., Liu, J., Li H, Maxfield, L. F., Abbink, P., Lynch, D. M., Iampietro, M. J., SanMiguel, A, Seaman, MS, Ferrari, G, Forthal, D. N., Ourmanov, I, Hirsch, V. M., Carville, A., Mansfield, K. G., Stablein, D., Pau, M. G., Schuitemaker, H., Sadoff, J. C., Billings, E., Rao, M., Robb, M. L., Kim, J. H., Marovich, M. A., Goudsmit, J., & Michael, N. L. (2012, January 4) Vaccine protection against acquisition of neutralization-resistant SIV challenges in rhesus monkeys. Nature, 482(7383), 89-93. doi: 10.1038/nature10766.
NIH/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (2012, January 4). Experimental vaccine partially protects monkeys from HIV-like infection. ScienceDaily.com. Retrieved from
Indiana University School of Medicine (2012, February 13). Scientist works to detach protein that HIV uses as protective shield. ScienceDaily.com. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/02/120213133704.htm
AIDS.gov (n.d.) HIV/AIDS Basics. US Dept. of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from http://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics