Controversial AIDS vaccines are 'plausible'
点击量： 时间：2019-03-03 07:19:01
By Shaoni Bhattacharya A report detailing a controversial “cure” for HIV, as well as a vaccine that prevents against infection with the virus, has been published in a leading scientific journal. The “cure”, or therapeutic vaccine, was developed from the blood of HIV patients. It appeared to clear the deadly virus from 20 people with HIV, claims a report by Jeremiah Abalaka at the Medicrest Specialist Hospital in Gwagwalada, Abuja in Nigeria. A therapeutic vaccine aims to bolster the immune response of a person already infected with a disease, to reduce or stop progression. Abalaka says his therapeutic vaccine also eliminated antibodies for hepatitis B and C virus from the blood of co-infected HIV-positive patients and improved symptoms of malaria in a handful of patients. Abalaka, a general surgeon with training in immunology, has tested his cure on almost 4000 HIV positive patients over six years. He also used himself as a guinea pig for both the therapeutic and preventative vaccines. To test the preventive vaccine, he says he inoculated himself before injecting himself with HIV-positive blood on six separate occasions. He says he did not contract the virus. He then tested the vaccine on about 300 HIV-negative people and says none have yet developed the infection, as far as he knows. His work has caused huge controversy in Nigeria, causing wrangles between Abalaka and the Nigerian ministry of health. But now Abalaka has published a report in the journal Vaccine. “I have successfully developed safe, preventive and curative vaccines against HIV,” Abalaka told New Scientist. “I would like to see the world looking into my work to confirm or refute it.” But Saladin Osmanov, acting co-ordinator of the joint World Health Organization/UNAIDS HIV vaccine initiative cautions that Abalaka’s vaccine has not been evaluated under the strict protocols required, and his work has not been independently reviewed by experts. Ray Spier, editor of Vaccine, defends his decision to publish the findings in an editorial accompanying the report. “Time is short and the prevailing situation demands action,” he writes. “Desperate situations call for desperate measures. I believe that Abalaka has risen to this challenge.” “I have chosen, against the advice of senior colleagues, to publish the report he produced,” he admits. Colleagues were concerned that Abalaka’s study did not meet western standards for science, Spier told New Scientist. Spier acknowledges this and points out that the findings are published as a report and not a peer-reviewed research paper, though Spier assessed the work himself. But Osmanov insists: “There are no western standards, or African standards. There are only standard procedures for evaluating the safety and efficacy of any vaccine – and they are more or less the same everywhere.” Spier believes it is important to encourage people to do empirical work in areas most stricken by AIDS. To critics, he says: “Everybody’s entitled to a fair hearing, and when presented with a mass of data it would be churlish to turn it aside.” “I would be extremely sceptical,” says Frances Gotch at Imperial College London, UK, who heads the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative’s core laboratory in London. She has examined and tested similar claims in the past – all of which came to nothing. But she adds: “It’s good to keep your mind open.” In his editorial, Spier notes that the validity of Abalaka’s data is an “area of contention” but says “I certainly do believe in the integrity with which it was presented.” He points out that the data is far from perfect and that Abalaka admits that he left samples standing around in the heat. In fact, Spier says that the therapeutic vaccine showed little effect on the 4000 patients tested. These patients showed slight but statistically insignificant increases in weight and in their CD4+ counts, a crucial measure of immune cells. But the therapeutic vaccine did apparently cause “seroreversion” in 20 patients. This means that antibodies against HIV disappeared from their blood, which could indicate that the virus was no longer present. Sixteen patients showed seroreversion to normal for hepatitis C virus and 50 for hepatitis B. However, neither the report nor Abalaka himself will disclose specific details of the vaccines. Abalaka has a patent in Nigeria and says he does not want to risk it being hijacked by a pharmaceutical company. But he says he will release data to individuals willing to sign an agreement. He says the vaccines do not contain any live HIV virus or cause the production of anti-HIV antibodies in recipients. One dose consists of 1 millilitre of pure blood extract with no additives other than standard anticoagulants and an antibiotic to prevent contamination. Spier, who has read Abalaka’s confidential methodology, concedes “it’s a plausible approach”. He hints: “It’s a blood product – you’re going back to something like the 1930s’ kind of technology.” He says the reported beneficial effects of the vaccine on hepatitis B and C and malaria are biologically plausible. “I think we are looking at cross-reactivity – maybe something in his preparation jolts the immune system.” But the lack of openness leaves Osmanov seriously concerned about safety. He told New Scientist that the “old tradition of using blood as a source of immunity [is] a very raw approach”. He is also concerned that the publication of Abalaka’s report by Vaccine could open up “an avenue for other people to start doing whatever they want”. But Spier believes Abalaka’s work is “worthy of more systematic investigation” and Abalaka himself hopes his work will be tested. “It is normal for any reasonable person to be sceptical about any new discovery, including mine,” he says. “What I would expect critics to do is to come and see for themselves.” Journal reference: Vaccine (vol 22, p 3817, p 3819) More on these topics: