In an exciting breakthrough in the fight against AIDS, four monkeys injected with an experimental compound have remained HIV-free for almost a year despite repeated efforts to infect them with large doses of the virus. The researchers, whose study is published in the journal Nature, say the compound they've engineered blocks the virus so effectively it could function as a vaccine—and halt AIDS in people already infected. Lead researcher Michael Farzan of the Scripps Research Institute tells the New York Times that the experimental protein blocks both sites that HIV uses to attach itself to cells, demonstrating with his hands in what one of his colleagues says is "the grip for a two-seam cut fastball."
The researchers say the study, which builds on more than a decade of research on how the virus that causes AIDS enters cells, has found that the compound blocks all known strains of HIV, CBS reports. Farzan tells the Wall Street Journal that the next step will be testing the compound in people who already have HIV to show it can work therapeutically, followed by testing it as a vaccine in people at high risk of infection. Experts not involved with the work say it appears so promising that they hope it can move into the human testing stage quickly. (An earlier attempt to create an AIDS vaccine was foiled by a common-cold virus.)