Researchers say they have found a vaccine that often completely eradicates the virus that causes AIDS in monkeys, and they hope to test the human form soon.

The team from Oregon Health & Science University published the results in the journal Nature.

“It’s always tough to claim eradication — there could always be a cell which we didn’t analyze that has the virus in it,” Louis Picker, of the Vaccine and Gene Therapy Institute at OHSU, told the BBC. “But for the most part, with very stringent criteria … there was no virus left in the body of these monkeys.”

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About half of the monkeys responded to the vaccine, which was created by using a common virus, usually harmless, called cytomegalovirus or CMV. When the CMV was exposed to SIV — the virus that causes AIDS in monkeys, similar to HIV in humans, although more potent — it elicited a T-cell response that was able to attack the SIV, Picker said.

“Through this method we were able to teach the monkey’s body to better ‘prepare its defenses’ to combat the disease,” Picker said in a press release.

Researchers are still trying to determine why some monkeys did not respond to the vaccine.

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It remains to be seen whether a similar vaccine will work in humans. The researchers have licensed the CMV technology to the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative. Picker and OHSU also own part of TomegaVax, Inc., a company that hopes eventually sell the vaccine, OregonLive points out.

Photo: Corbis