vaccine likely within 10 years, says expert Joe
Irish Times 18/06/2005
By Joe Humphreys
A vaccine for Aids could be available within a decade
if recent progress in medical research is sustained,
Prof Robert Gallo, the doctor who first developed
a test for HIV, told a conference in Dublin yesterday.
The pioneering Baltimore based virologist, who is
widely credited for first identifying the Aids virus
in 1984, warned however, that the search for a vaccine
should not stop governments worldwide from pursuing
existing strategies against HIV.
Current vaccines, including those Prof Gallo had
tested on animals, "leave a lot to be desired",
he said. "At best, they might be partially effective
for a while."
As a result, he said, governments should maintain
a focus on education, good diagnostic blood testing
and other preventive measures.
"Yes, there will be more vaccine candidates going
forward. We are getting interesting results in monkeys
right now… I wouldn't be working on it if I didn't
think it was doable. And since I'm no spring chicken,
I think it's doable in my lifetime. But don't get
overly excited. Roughly three years from now, I
would be able to give a very good estimate that,
yeah, it's very likely we are going to have a breakthrough,"
he told The Irish Times.
Prof Gallo, who is director of the Institute of
Human Virology at the University of Maryland, said
there was "no magic formula" for tackling Aids in
Africa, where the disease was estimated to kill
6,000 people each day. However, part of the solution
was training local health service providers in HIV
treatment and care.
He said administrative organisations such as the
World Health Organisation and the UN Aids programme
were "well meaning and do a good job when it comes
to distributing something like a vaccine. But this
is complex. It involves on-the-ground training.
"It also involves the long-term engagement of governments
until this is gone. Governments can just get bored
by it. You can't just give the drugs and walk away."
Rejecting suggestions that government should concentrate
on poverty-reduction rather than drug treatment,
he added: "You can't just let these people get wiped
out. You are talking about tens of millions of infected
people. You can't just say: 'Let's worry about the
economy and let them rot.'"
Prof Gallo was speaking at a conference at UCD,
hosted by its Centre for Research in Infectious
Diseases to mark the university's 150th anniversary.
William G. Powderly, professor of medicine and therapeutics
at the centre, said UCD was currently involved in
a HIV treatment-training project in Uganda and was
planning two projects, in Malawi and Mozambique.
"Even if we do it on a small scale, we will be making
a contribution, " he added.