Magazine article Science News

Take-Home Message: No AIDS Magic Bullet

Magazine article Science News

Take-Home Message: No AIDS Magic Bullet

Article excerpt

Almost daily, in venues as varied as chemistry journals and gene-therapy conferences, scientists report progress in the race to understand and quell AIDS, Sometimes. the media and researchers champion advances as leaps forward. Other times, they take a more conservative view, calling results tiny steps no more deserving of headlines and air time than any other research finding.

Fortunately, science eventually provides the perspective to put these advances in their proper places. Unfortunately, that perspective all too often reminds AIDS researchers that HIV, the virus responsible for this disease, can outmaneuver efforts to control it.

Such was the case with an unusual anti-AIDS strategy proposed last Februan) Researchers studying the effects of various drug combinations on HIV replication in cells grown in the laboratory discovered that sometimes, as the virus evolves resistance to these drugs, it also becomes less able to survive.

To deflect the toxic effects of anti-AIDS medications such as zidovudine (AZT) or dideoxyinosine (ddI), HIV mutates. Each mutation causes a change in a key HIV enzyme, reverse transcriptase. When bombarded with AZT, ddI, and another anti-AIDS compound called pyridinone, mutations change the enzyme so much that the virus cannot replicate, Yung-Kang Chow and his colleagues at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston reported in the Feb. 18 NATURE. They tested this concept by creating mutant HIV that contained the four genetic changes known to lead to resistance to these drugs. …

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