Researchers have been able to clear an HIV-like virus from infected monkeys, raising hopes that a similar protocol could be used to cure AIDS in humans.
A study published in the journal Nature
showed that 9 of 16 monkeys given the new vaccine were able to clear the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) from their systems. SIV is the monkey version of HIV, which causes human AIDS.
Monkeys infected with SIV usually die within two years, but in more than half of inoculated animals, the virus never took hold.
Louis Picker, from the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at Oregon Health and Science University, told the BBC that the study leaves little doubt that the vaccine is effective "It's always tough to claim eradication - there could always be a cell which we didn't analyze that has the virus in it. But for the most part, with very stringent criteria... there was no virus left in the body of these monkeys," he said.
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Researchers hope to start tests with a similar vaccine in humans.
In the study, blood from monkeys saved by the vaccine was injected into other monkeys. Those animals never developed the disease.
Researchers are now investigating why the vaccine -- which prompted the monkeys' white blood cells to seek out and destroy SIV -- only worked on a portion of the monkeys.
"This latest research suggests that certain immune responses elicited by a new vaccine may also have the ability to completely remove HIV from the body," Picker said.
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