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Published on 15 February 2008

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Scientist downbeat on AIDS vaccine

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A Nobel Prize-winning scientist claims new vaccines for HIV and AIDS are still a long way off being discovered.

Professor David Baltimore, president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), believes there is “no hopeful route to success” in defeating the diseases with traditional immunisation techniques.

Gene and stem cell therapy offer the only real chance of eradicating the problem, and these methods are still in their early stages, he said.

HIV has evolved to protect itself from the immune system, and although it causes no serious harm to chimpanzees, the species in which it originally developed, it has proved disastrous for humans.

Prof Baltimore said: “Against that background, the vaccine community has tried its best. It initially made an attempt to control the virus through antibodies, but found that the virus was quite solidly protected against that mode of attack.

“It then switched to trying the other arm of immune protection, the cellular immune system. That has never been mobilised to protect against a virus because it was not powerful enough.

“Sure enough, in full-scale clinical trial the first such candidate vaccine gave no protection.”

Copyright © PA Business 2008

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