Large-scale testing of AIDS vaccines could begin in two years and a vaccine could be widely available by the middle of the 1990s, researchers said Friday.
In an address at the Sixth International Conference on AIDS, Dr. Jay A. Berzofsky of the National Cancer Institute said the most effective vaccines will probably be synthetic - made through recombinant DNA technology, or genetic engineering."We're now in a position to take advantage of recent advantages in immunology to design an artificial vaccine," Berzofsky said. "And it should be possible to develop such a vaccine in the near future."
The AIDS vaccine group led by Dr. Jonas Salk reported that the Salk AIDS vaccine has so far produced beneficial blood changes in some of the 19 patients with AIDS-related complex who received it. The significance of those changes is still being studied, said Alexandra M. Levine of the University of Southern California.
Wayne Koff, chief of the AIDS vaccine research branch at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the most promising human vaccines should be ready for large-scale testing in two or three years, and it will take two or three more years to determine their effectiveness.
"So, we're still looking at the mid-to-late 1990s as a minimal time frame for selection of a vaccine for general use," Koff said.
Some 30 approaches toward the development of vaccines are now being studied, Koff said. Half a dozen vaccines are already being tested or are about to be tested in humans, he said.
Optimism about an AIDS vaccine is spurred by recent successes with vaccines in animals, said Dr. Murray B. Gardner of the University of California, Davis.
A San Francisco community research group reported improvement in AIDS patients given a drug called compound Q, derived from a Chinese herb. Before getting the drug, patients suffered a steady decline in immune system cells called CD4 cells. Afterward, 38 of the patients showed either a stabilization of CD4 cells or an increase , said the study's director, Martin Delaney.
"At this stage, we have seen a major and dramatic change in what happens to these patients," Delaney said. But he said he could not yet recommend that the drug be taken widely because of potentially dangerous side effects.
Near the Moscone Center convention hall, more than 200 protesters, mostly woman, gathered in the latest of a string of daily demonstrations sponsored by ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power.
Friday's demonstration focused on what ACT UP contends is the exclusion of women, children and minorities from research, treatment and other services.
Many protesters bound themselves to metal barricades with symbolic red paper chains, chanting, "Women die faster, this is a disaster," and waved signs reading "Health Care Now," Women Gets AIDS Too."