Covid Vaccines Also Help Protect HIV Patients

Study team: Clara Bessen, Carlos Plaza Sirveut, Adriane Skaletz-Rorowski, Anja Potthoff and Agir Simsek (from left).

Vaccine protection in patients with acquired immunodeficiency

Studies have shown that the vaccines against Sars-Cov-2 protect otherwise healthy people quite well against severe Covid-19. Up to now, it has remained unclear whether this is also the case for people with acquired immunodeficiency. The research team headed by Ingo Schmitz and Dr. Anja Potthoff from the Walk in Ruhr (WIR) Zentrum für Sexuelle Gesundheit und Medizin (Centre for Sexual Health and Medicine) at the university hospital of Ruhr University Bochum conducted a study with 71 HIV-positive participants who were receiving antiretroviral therapy. In addition, 20 HIV-negative control subjects took part in the study. After the first, second and third vaccination with the Biontech/Pfizer mRNA vaccine, they analysed the immune response of each participant.

“We found that the vaccination leads to this group forming antibodies, too, but less well than is the case for healthy people,” says Ingo Schmitz. “Seeing as this gap was reduced after a third shot, we believe that booster vaccinations should be recommended.”

Surprisingly good cellular immune response

The researchers were surprised to discover that the cellular immune response mediated by T-helper cells was just as good in HIV-positive as in HIV-negative people. “This is despite the fact that it is precisely these T-helper cells that are attacked by the HI virus and are reduced in number in HIV-positive people,” stresses Ingo Schmitz. Since T-helper cells are longer lived than antibodies, this might indicate that HIV-positive people are protected by the vaccine more or less as long as HIV-negative people.

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