Scientists tout momentum in race to solve AIDS

Scientists tout momentum in race to solve AIDS WASHINGTON: The race to end AIDS has picked up momentum in the past two years as scientific advances offer new hope of halting the spread of the disease nearly three decades after the epidemic surfaced.

Human immunodeficiency virus is well known to attack the body's natural defenses, but it has proven such a wily foe over the past 30 years because of the way it transforms, replicates and hides inside the body.

Scientists are learning more about how the virus infiltrates cells, and how to harness the body's own natural defenses to guard against it in the hope of closing in on new vaccines, strong prevention treatments and possibly, a cure.

"We have seen the light at the end of the tunnel," said Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a longtime leader in the fight to end AIDS.

According to Seth Berkley, president of the International Aids Vaccine Initiative, the "last two years have been the most exciting" because researchers have made the "biggest advances" in vaccines and preventions.

High on the list is work on broadly neutralizing antibodies, potent antibodies made by about 10-20 percent of people who are simply born with better natural defenses against HIV.

Scientists have now isolated 15 of these antibodies, and they are working backward to find ways to force the human immune system to produce them. When two are combined, they have been shown to block 90 percent of known HIV strains.

"The idea is if we could identify a strategy for the human host to be tricked into making broadly neutralizing antibodies, that is a huge step toward making a vaccine," said Myron Cohen, a leading AIDS researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Cohen.

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