Smallpox jab may prevent Aids

by STEPHEN HULL, Metro

A simple smallpox vaccination could protect people from Aids, it has emerged.

Researchers say early tests on what began as 'a crazy idea' were encouraging.

Their work is based on the observation that Aids began to spread rapidly across central Africa when smallpox was eliminated and people stopped being vaccinated against it.

Researcher Ken Alibek said: 'My first reaction was that this sounds like some kind of crazy idea. But after some analysis, I realised maybe this is not so crazy.'

Mr Alibek, a former top scientist in the Soviet biological weapons programme, took blood samples from ten people who had received the smallpox vaccination and ten who had not.

When HIV was introduced to the blood of those who were vaccinated, the virus either failed to grow or it was slowed considerably. The results were ' statistically significant', despite the small sample, said Mr Alibek, from George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

'It could be a great way to protect people because the vaccine has been safetytested, is already in production and has been used successfully on a global scale to eradicate smallpox,' he added.

Wayne Koff, of the International Aids Vaccine Initiative, said he was cautious about drawing too many conclusions from such early research but described the work as intriguing.

George Mason University has already filed patent applications on the smallpox vaccine's therapeutic use against HIV and Aids.

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