Release of Data on Small Study Suggesting Smallpox Vaccine May Protect Against HIV Infection Ignites Debate
September 17, 2003
Scientists from George Washington University and George Mason University who recently collaborated on a small study showing that the smallpox vaccine may protect against HIV infection are in an "ethical tiff" over GMU's decision to issue a press release on the study before the data was accepted by a peer-reviewed journal and GMU's application for a patent that did not acknowledge GWU's work, the Washington Post reports (Goldstein, Washington Post, 9/17). Researchers from the two universities studied blood samples from 10 people who received the smallpox vaccination and 10 who did not. HIV was added to each of the blood samples. According to the researchers, HIV either did not grow or grew at substantially reduced levels in the cells of blood samples taken from individuals who had received the smallpox vaccination. Despite the relatively small number of samples involved in the study, the researchers found a statistically significant difference in resistance to HIV infection between the blood cells from the vaccinated subjects and the blood cells from the unvaccinated subjects (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/12). GWU scientists said that the study results are "premature" and that they do not yet know whether the results will hold true on a larger scale. The Journal of the American Medical Association this month rejected the study; however, the data are currently being examined by the British peer-reviewed journal the Lancet, according to GMU Provost Peter Stearns. Stearns said that GMU decided to announce the study results because researchers from both universities had already given a briefing for HHS officials. Attorneys for both schools have filed separate patent applications, with GWU's application citing GMU's work and GMU's application not mentioning the other university's efforts.
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.