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SALK SAYS EXPERIMENTAL VACCINE ELIMINATED AIDS IN 2 CHIMPANZEES

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Dr. Jonas Salk's report that an experimental vaccine eliminated AIDS infection in two chimpanzees demonstrates treatment for the deadly disease is possible, but scientists say it is only one of several promising findings.

"These are the beginnings of progress we didn't have a year ago," said Dani Bolognesi of Duke University, a leading authority on AIDS vaccine research.Speaking Thursday at the Fifth International Conference on AIDS, Bolognesi said researchers at the New England Primate Research Center had blocked an AIDS-like infection in monkeys.

And researchers at Repligen in Cambridge, Mass., working with Bolognesi and others, showed that antibodies to a tiny portion of the AIDS virus's outer surface could prevent infection in chimpanzees.

Much of the attention at the conference focused on Salk, developer of the first polio vaccine in the 1950's. Salk said, however, that his research did not constitute a breakthrough.

"We're on a path we think is worth pursuing," Salk said. "We haven't reached the end of it . . . We're still in the exploratory phase."

Dr. Robert Gallo of the National Cancer Institute, one of the discoverers of the AIDS virus, said Salk's vaccine could probably never be given to people who had not already been infected by the AIDS virus.

The reason, he said, is that the vaccine is made of killed - but mostly intact - AIDS virus.

"Who would take it? Who's going to guarantee that every virus particle is dead?" Gallo said.

He said it was unlikely the U.S. Food and Drug Administration would ever approve such a vaccine for use in uninfected people to prevent acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

"There is no Salk AIDS vaccine here," Gallo said.

Bolognesi, who summed up vaccine research at the AIDS conference, did say, however, that Salk had made several intriguing and surprising findings.

In one study, Salk and Clarence Gibbs of the U.S. National Institutes of Health injected four chimpanzees with high doses of the AIDS virus, called the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. Two had already been infected with AIDS and then vaccinated.

A third had been vaccinated but not previously infected with AIDS. A fourth was not vaccinated or infected.

The two that had been infected and vaccinated fought off the new infection. The vaccine worked.