Russia moves up in HIV/AIDS vaccine development - scientist

Russian doctors hail the U.S. baby's HIV infection cure and say that Russia has also moved up in the HIV/AIDS vaccine development.

Alexei Mazus, chief free lance specialist of the Russian Health Ministry in HIV/AIDS diagnostics and therapy, was asked whether the U.S. baby cure was sensational.

"This is not (a sensation) in science. Probably, it is in medical practice," he said.

Dr. Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, presented the findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta. The recovery of the 30-month-old baby girl was the world's second known case of HIV cure. The girl was born with HIV.

Theoretically, the mechanism of HIV cure of children has been clear for a long time "but the therapy can be successful only at the very early stage before the virus spreads," said Mazus, head of the Moscow Center for HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment.

"Formally, the United States has long been the leader even in terms of the allocations for vaccine development and research," he said.

"There is science, and some scientists are lucky. A Belgian scientist has developed one of the best anti-retroviral drugs. The first adult was cured of HIV in Germany. Science operates by different rules, and money is not always vital for making a scientific breakthrough," Mazus said.

In his words, Russia has seriously moved up in the development of a HIV vaccine.

"Vaccines have been developed at three scientific centers, in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk. Hopefully, at least one of the three vaccines developed in Russia will become a scientific step forward," Mazus said.

So far, the Russian vaccines are branded "candidate"; they may be used three or five years from now, he said.

"Probably, there are methods to prevent infection without a vaccine," he said.

"There was a hope about 18 months ago that the world had developed an efficient HIV vaccine, but tests done in Thailand showed that it was efficient only in 30 percent of cases while the target rate was 90 percent. Our vaccine operates on a different principle," Mazus said.

"The vaccine will operate on the following principle - a person is inoculated and can do whatever he or she wants. Then there is a question who should be inoculated and if the inoculated is needed by everyone. But this is not a scientific question," he remarked.

"We cannot say we are lagging behind. This is wrong. We have serious research works, we make reports at scientific forums and we have outstanding scientists," Mazus said.

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