Colorado Scientists Find HIV-Resistant Protein, But Others Question Study Importance
University of Colorado researchers have found that a naturally occurring blood protein prevents HIV from reproducing and spreading to healthy cells, but fellow AIDS researchers have given the discovery the "cold shoulder," the Denver Rocky Mountain News reports. "It's a very threatening discovery, bordering on a paradigm shift. It basically says people have been missing something very basic and obvious for quite some time," lead study author Leland Shapiro said of the finding, originally reported Monday, that HIV proliferates readily when added to blood containing lower levels of the protein alpha-1 antitrypsin, or AAT. CU scientists say injecting additional AAT into AIDS patients could help the body resist the virus, and that the discovery could lead to treatments resistant to viral mutations or prophylactic drugs to prevent HIV replication. Yet Shapiro's study paper, to be published in the January issue of the Federation of the American Societies of Experimental Biology Journal, was rejected by four "prominent" scientific journals that "questioned the discovery's impact." Carl Dieffenbach, associate director of the basic science program for NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, said that the finding was "interesting," but noted that it's premature to call it a "paradigm shift," commenting that "there are AIDS discoveries that rank at the level of Shapiro's every other month." He added, "At a minimum, this tells us another potentially key step in virus replication. Whether or not (the virus) can be efficiently targeted with a drug is a big question here. ... At this point, this is not a useful therapy" (Poppen, Denver Rocky Mountain News, 12/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.