This Compound May Lead to an AIDS Vaccine

Compound tested in monkeys blocked HIV infection, raising researchers' hopes that it could lead to an AIDS vaccine

It has only been tested in monkeys, but a new compound appears highly effective at blocking HIV, raising hopes that it could lead to an AIDS vaccine.

The results of tests of this compound were published online Feb. 18 in a new study in the journal Nature.

The authors of this study, led by Michael Farzan, PhD, of the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, FL, gave four monkeys this new compound. These researchers then tried their best to infect those monkeys with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) over the course of nearly a year — and it didn’t work.

How does this compound work? It’s complicated, but the simplified version is that it blocks the HIV virus from attaching to cells, rendering it useless.

Dr. Farzan told The New York Times that the next step is to test the compound in monkeys that are already HIV-positive to see whether it can stop the virus from spreading in the body.

After that, tests could move to humans. The hope, Dr. Farzan and team said, is to develop a vaccine that could prevent AIDS.

HIV is a virus that can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). AIDS is a chronic, deadly disease that attacks the immune system. It is often spread through sexual activity or sharing needles.

Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for AIDS. Medications called antiretrovirals can slow the spread of the virus in the body, however.

The National Institutes of Health funded the current study. Dr. Farzan and team disclosed no conflicts of interest.