Thursday, October 9, 2008

Nobel Prize and New Vaccine?

You may have heard that two of the three scientists behind the discovery of the virus that causes AIDS won the Nobel Prize this year (as did the discoverer of HPV, the virus that has been linked to cervical cancer).

"Since its discovery in 1981, AIDS has rivaled the worst epidemics in history. An estimated 25 million people have died, and 33 million more are living with H.I.V.

In 1983, Dr. Montagnier and Dr. Barré-Sinoussi, a member of his lab at the Pasteur Institute in Paris, published their report of a newly identified virus. The Karolinska Institute said that discovery led to blood tests to detect the infection and to anti-retroviral drugs that can prolong the lives of patients. The tests are now used to screen blood donations, making the blood supply safer for transfusions and blood products.

The viral discovery has also led to an understanding of the natural history of H.I.V. infection in people, which ultimately leads to AIDS and death unless treated."

This week, one of those scientists has stated that we could see a therapeutic vaccine for HIV/AIDS within the next four years.

"Montagnier, 76, said a treatment could be possible in the future with a 'therapeutic' rather than preventive vaccine for which results might be published in three or four years if financial backing is forthcoming.

'I think it will be possible with a therapeutic vaccine rather than preventative vaccinations. We would give it to people who are already infected.'

A therapeutic vaccine prevents disease from flourishing after it has taken hold."

Unfortunately, just this past February, another Nobel laureate stated that we are no closer to finding a vaccine then we were 25 years ago and a vaccine may never be found:

"An Aids vaccine might never be found, claims one of the world's leading experts on the disease. David Baltimore, a Nobel laureate, said the complexity of the disease means scientists are no closer to a vaccine today than when they discovered the link to HIV more than 25 years ago.

Baltimore, a biologist at the California Institute of Technology, was awarded the Nobel prize for medicine in 1975 for discovering an enzyme that was later discovered to be the key reproductive mechanism used by the virus known as HIV...."

Although the February article is unclear, it appears Dr. Baltimore is referring to a preventative vaccine, rather than a therapeutic one.

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