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NIDA. (2017, May 10). Combined HIV and heroin vaccine shows promise. Retrieved from

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Science Highlight

May 10, 2017
3d rendering of vaccine vial isolated over whitePhoto by ©©istock/ayo888

A novel combination vaccine designed to treat heroin addiction and target HIV was found to elicit immune responses in mice and dull their response to injected heroin in a recent preclinical trial.

A team of U.S. government researchers led by scientists from the Walter Reed Institute of Research are developing a dual vaccine formulated with three main components: a segment of a protein expressed on the surface of HIV; a synthetic molecule that resembles heroin and its degradation products; and a potent adjuvant to stimulate the immune system. Mice immunized with this vaccine had high antibody titers against the HIV surface protein as well as heroin and its derivatives.

The research was supported in part by a National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) Avant Garde Award selected in 2012, as well as the Intramural Research Program at NIDA and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.


  • Torres, O. et al. Heroin-HIV-1 (H2) vaccine: induction of dual immunologic effects with a heroin hapten-conjugate and an HIV-1 envelope V2 peptide with liposomal lipid A as an adjuvant. npj Vaccines.