Have Doctors Found a Way to Kill HIV?

This is a rush transcript from "America's Election HQ," July 31, 2008. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

JANE SKINNER, GUEST HOST: SKINNER: This is pretty incredible medical news to go get to at this hour. Researchers in Texas say they may have found a way to kill the HIV virus. The idea would be used, not only to control the disease for people already infected, but actually prevent infection for anybody who might be at risk.

We'll talk to one of the doctors working on this - Dr. Sudhir Paul He is a pathologist and professor at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Doctor, thanks for being here. You're talking about destroying this thing permanently?

DR. SUDHIR PAUL, PATHOLOGIST AND PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS MEDICAL SCHOOL: The approach is to use catalytic antibodies to degrade the virus surface.

Video: Watch Jane Skinner's interview with Dr. Sudhir Paul

SKINNER: OK. I'll stop you right there because I don't know what that means. Can you explain it to somebody like me, a layperson?

DR. PAUL: Sorry. The basic finding is that there is a weak spot, an unchangeable part of the virus that we are attacking, and this is important because the virus comes in very diverse form and it is highly changeable. So we've discovered a relatively constant part of the virus that we are attacking.

Normally, our immune system works by producing antibodies that bind this part of the virus, and it is a simple binding reaction. It is a one-to-one reaction. What we have are antibodies with enzymatic activity. That means these are catalytic and a single molecule of the antibody can degrade permanently. It can essentially break up this weak spot of the virus, and it's a way of increasing the potency of the immune system. And then, of course, the other important part is that this is a constant region of the HIV.

SKINNER: And real quickly, Dr. Paul, when will this be tried on human beings and how quickly could we actually get this? I mean, this could have obviously huge implications worldwide.

DR. PAUL: The goal is to make a preventative vaccine so we have made a synthetic form of this weak spot of the virus. And in animal tests, we are able to induce the production of productive catalytic antibodies or enzymes, and the NIH says that the earliest that we will have a vaccine is about 15 to 20 years. I am more optimistic and I would say five to 10 years and with clinical trials to hopefully start within the next six to nine months.

SKINNER: Well, good luck to you. Dr. Sudhir Paul, from U.T. Medical school there in Houston. Thank you.

DR. PAUL: Thank you.

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