Unique Lymphocytes Could Hold Promise for AIDS Vaccine Development
The identification of specific lymphocytes that "mount defensive actions that appear to suppress transmission of" HIV, could have "big implications" for AIDS vaccine development, the Newark Star-Ledger reports. In a study appearing in this month's Journal of Infectious Diseases, researchers from the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey looked for reasons why 17 women involved in long-term relationships with HIV-positive men did not contract the virus despite "repeated unprotected sexual encounters." Seventy-five percent of the women in the six-year study were determined to have certain lymphocytes that may have been responsible for the protective factor. "The value of this study is that it identifies what may be key resistance factors to HIV, and therefore contains substantial information that could be useful in developing an AIDS vaccine," co-principal investigator Joan Skurnick, an associate professor of preventive medicine and community health, said. Donald Louria, the other lead investigator, added that an effective vaccine is "of critical importance because education and new drugs, by themselves, may slow but will not stop the spread of HIV/AIDS." Skurnick said that the women in the study were selected because "they were unusual in that they had not become infected despite heavy exposure to HIV" and warned that the results "should in no way be used as a justification for having unprotected sex." She explained, "We cannot exclude that these women are risk-free now or will remain uninfected in the future" (Stewart, Newark Star-Ledger, 2/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.