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Dr. Cal Cohen: What about the Yeast Vaccine???
Apr 9, 2002

Dr. Cohen: What is the situation with the novel yeast vaccine? Do you think that this novel approch will pan out? I get very hopeful that medical science is close to wiping out this wizard of a virus. Biff

Response from Dr. Cohen

Say, Biff.

There are several vaccines cooking... and a few utilize yeast as part of the background so I am not I know which specific one you mean. However -- the issues in general are these. IF (as in the big if) we can harness a more effective immune response against HIV - especially challenging for those who have HIV for more than a few months -- we anticipate that people can do well for years and perhaps even decades with far fewer days on antiviral medication. (While there are also preventive vaccines, I am now just referring to treatment vaccination.) There are early data suggesting that the immune system is sometimes capable of controlling HIV - keeping it at low levels; so low that damage to our immune system appears negligible if there is any. The example of long term non/slow progressors teaches us this. The ongoing challenge is to see if we can harness and educate and repair and direct the immune system into doing what it might do, but too rarely does in those with chronic HIV infection - maintain a very low viral load or setpoint. And a vaccine is the hope of many to get us there.

While there are preliminary and exciting reports in the vaccine world - we can also note that this type of work has been ongoing for over a decade and with each initial excitement has at least so far come disappointing results. So for those who've been here before, it is easy to be skeptical. However, there are lessons learned from the shortfalls of the past -- and perhaps with this will come a better outcome. We shall see.

But... I too am hopeful that through any number of clever techniques and approaches -- including these pretty powerful and ever easier antivirals -- we are closer and closer to containing and castrating this wily foe. As for wiping out... that may happen... but that is a high hurdle and, as it turns out, may not be essential to minimizing what damage it does.



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