Smallpox Vaccine Slows HIV
Study raises hope for a new tool against pandemic
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted May 19, 2010 2:29 PM CDT
Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 budding from cultured lymphocyte. Multiple round bumps on cell surface represent sites of assembly and budding of virions.   (Wikimedia Commons.)

(Newser) – People exposed with the smallpox vaccine may gain a measure of protection against the HIV virus. Researchers from George Washington University exposed white blood cells taken from vaccinated and non-vaccinated individuals and exposed them to HIV. In the smallpox-vaccinated cells, HIV replicated itself significantly slower than in those from non-vaccinated persons, Science Daily reports.

The findings support a theory for the rise of HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa: that the "defeat" of smallpox and subsequent decrease in vaccinations in the late '70s played a role. The possibility of using the vaccine to combat HIV is tempting, but the lead researcher advises caution. "While these results are very interesting and hopefully may lead to a new weapon against the HIV pandemic, it is far too soon to recommend the general use of vaccinia immunization for fighting HIV." Check out the original scientific paper in the journal BMC Immunology here.