* U.N. agencies call results "encouraging"
* Remains to be seen whether vaccine applicable elsewhere
GENEVA, Sept 24 (Reuters) - Two U.N. agencies said on Thursday promising results with an experimental AIDS vaccine in Thailand gave "new hope" in the fight against the disease, but more work was needed to see if it could be used elsewhere.
The vaccine tested on volunteers is a combination of Sanofi-Aventis's (SASY.PA) ALVAC canary pox vaccine and the failed HIV vaccine AIDSVAX, made by VaxGen and now owned by the non-profit Global Solutions for Infectious Diseases. [ID:nN23409986]
"The study results, representing a significant scientific advance, are the first demonstration that a vaccine can prevent HIV infection in a general adult population and are of great importance," the Geneva-based World Health Organisation and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) said.
The vaccine lowered the risk of HIV infection by 32 percent among 16,000 heterosexual Thai volunteers who had no special risk of AIDS infection, the U.S. and Thai government researchers said.
The U.N. agencies, in a joint statement, characterised the efficacy as "modestly protective".
"However, these results have instilled new hope in the HIV vaccine research field and promise that a safe and highly effective HIV vaccine may become available for populations throughout the world who are most in need of such a vaccine," they said.
"It remains to be seen if the two specific vaccine components in this particular regime would be applicable to other parts of the world with diverse host genetic backgrounds and different HIV subtypes driving different regional sub-epidemics," the agencies added.
Once an HIV vaccine does become available, it will need to be universally accessible to all persons at risk, they said.
(For a story on the test results doubleclick on [ID:nLO53122] )
Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by Michael Roddy