Vincentian immunologist expresses optimism in HIV vaccine research
December 7, 2012

Vincentian immunologist expresses optimism in HIV vaccine research

Vincentian immunologist Jean Saville Cummings is hopeful that his work will help persons diagnosed with HIV react positively to a vaccine being developed.{{more}}

Cummings obtained his doctorate in 2008 from the University School of Medicine in the United States, where he looked at the impact of HIV infection on a particular class of T-cells.

In explaining his theory to SEARCHLIGHT, Cummings said “I showed basically that currently, when people who became HIV positive or when they are tested HIV positive in an undeveloped country like ours, because of the cost of putting them on drugs, we generally set a threshold of sickness and if you fall below the threshold, they start putting you on drugs.”

But Cummings said he was able to confirm that if one is not below that threshold, that individual is able to cope and manage, then they leave the individual.

“You get more sick over the period of time, but the longer you [are] above that threshold … they won’t put you on drugs … Where in some of the developed countries where the resources are more in-line, as soon as you get tested HIV positive they put you on drugs,” Cummings said of his findings.

Cummings said that he was able to confirm the different changes in people who went on drugs early, as against those who went on drugs late, based on the type of cells they lose that can’t be recovered.

“What I was able to show in that study is eventually I believe there is going to be a difference in lifespan of HIV [infected] individuals,” Cummings said with some confidence.

In his post graduate studies at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, France, a government sponsored agency there, he and others looked at developing a vaccine for HIV.

Cummings said that his task was to define a particular type of response in the immune system to that vaccine.

“We were able to show that it is beginning to work and so there was some hope there that vaccine going forward, based on the work we were doing”, Cummings noted.

Cummings said that he went on to Oxford University in England, where he continued work in that field, looking at interaction between HIV and the immune system.

“… I have been working on a paper for the past year and a half now, where I am looking at challenging the immune system, where it can better respond to HIV”, Cummings revealed.

Cummings, a former national athlete told SEARCHLIGHT that he is exploring the possibility of utilizing some of his work here in the Caribbean.

Cummings who was here for a short stay recently, revealed that he has been in talks with authorities in Trinidad and Tobago, to widen his options, as he wants to return to the Caribbean region. (RT)