For posterity

 
Published: Sunday 30 November 1997

-- (Credit: Sanjay Ghosh) a group of activists and health professionals in the us have offered to test a controversial aids vaccine on themselves. Their offer is a part of a calculated effort to break the deadlock that has frustrated researchers since the start of the aids epidemic. Scientists know vaccines are the best way to stop the spread of a deadly virus, but there is no way to determine how effective a vaccine is in humans without putting some humans at risk.

Ronald Kesrosiers, a professor of microbiology at Harvard Medical School in the us injected a handful of chimpanzees with a solution of weakened hiv . After a year, he exposed them to the full-strength virus. Every chimp had an immune response strong enough to contain the killer virus -- at least for a while. Kesrosiers is now planning to experiment this vaccine on humans. But giving people aids is not the only risk. All aids virus, whether weakened or full strength, permanently insert their genes into the chromosomes of infected cells. Theoretically at least, that microscopic intrusion could lead to problems ranging from cancer to systemic nerve damage. The problems might show up immediately, or they might show up 15 or 20 years later. The volunteering of these people could provide answers on the effectiveness of this vaccine.

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