The man who can't catch Aids

Discovery may lead to vaccine

Scientists have found a man who cannot catch the virus that causes Aids - and his blood may hold the key to developing the first vaccine. In his blood, the New Yorker, Steve Crohn, has the first known substance in the world that will defeat the HIV virus. Scientists already knew of many individuals who remain healthy for a very long time between infection with HIV and developing full blown Aids. The difference in the case of Mr Crohn and the others now identified is that they appear to be resistant to inf ection with HIV in the first place. Mr Crohn, 49, a freelance editor for Fodor's Travel Guides, and another New Yorker who also appears to be immune, were discovered by a young Glaswegian scientist, Dr Bill Paxton, of the Aaron Diamond Aids Research Center in New York. Dr Paxton and his co lleagues have found a further 23 people who, although not completely immune, show some degree of resistance to HIV infection. Many have remained free of HIV despite a history of unsafe sex with multiple sexual partners who subsequently died of Aids.

From these individuals, Dr Paxton and his colleagues have taken the white blood cells, known as CD4 cells, which are the particular target of HIV, cultured the cells in the laboratory, and tried unsuccessfully to infect them with HIV. In the case ofMr C rohn's cells, the researchers could only get the infection to "take" by flooding the cultured cells with huge amounts of virus, far more than would be present in the course of a naturally occurring form of infection. There have been indications that some people might be resistant to HIV infection, because of the chance shuffling of the genes they inherited from their parents. But this evidence is only statistical. The new research has identified specific individuals and their biochemistry to work out the precise mechanism of resistance. Dr Paxton said yesterday, "If we can determine what is protecting these people then you ca n envisage therapy or vaccine design." Dr Paxton and his colleagues have already identified one set of biochemical compounds, known as chemokines, which appear to be acting in these people to defeat HIV. These substances were first recognised only five years ago and appear to play a role in the immune system. They report their findings in the April issue of the scientific journal Nature Medicine. Conventional vaccines consist of antibodies to the infecting agent produced by the immune system. But, partly because HIV subverts the cells of the immune system itself and partly because it is highly variable, no one has succeeded in producing a vaccine against it. The chemokines Dr Paxton and his colleagues have found are not antibodies. They are involved in the "inflammatory" response, when a wound or site of infection becomes inflamed. "I do not believe that next week everybody will be injecting chemokines and curing Aids, but definitely we're on a line," Dr Paxton said. He stressed that any vaccine or treatment was still a long way off: "I'm really worried about how people will take this news - people should not give up a safe sex policy." For Mr Crohn, the thought that his blood might hold a vital secret in the battle against Aids "would be very touching to me." His partner, Jerry Greenwood, died in 1982, before the disease even had a name.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Salesforce Developer

£50000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued business growt...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Sales Executive

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Finance / Accounts Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Well established and expanding ...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss