Nobel winner sees end to AIDS spread within years

Sat Dec 6, 2008 4:07pm EST
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By Adam Cox

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - A French scientist who shared this year's Nobel prize for medicine said on Saturday he believed the transmission of AIDS could be eliminated within years.

Luc Montagnier, director of the World Foundation for AIDS Research and Prevention, told a news conference together with this year's other winners for medicine that halting the transmission of AIDS would make it a disease much like others.

"Our job, of course, is to find complementary treatment to eradicate the infection. I think it's not impossible to do it within a few years," Montagnier said.

"So I hope to see in my lifetime the eradication of, not the AIDS epidemic, but at least the infection," the 76-year-old said. "This could be achieved."

Montagnier and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, of the Institut Pasteur, shared half of the 2008 prize for discovering the virus that has killed 25 million people since the early 1980s.

There is no cure for AIDS, which infects an estimated 33 million globally, but cocktails of drugs can control the virus and keep patients healthy.

There is no vaccine either, although researchers are trying to find vaccines that either prevent infection or would control the virus so that patients are less likely to transmit it -- a so-called therapeutic vaccine.

Montagnier said he hoped such a therapeutic vaccine could be developed within about four to five years, noting he and colleagues had already been working on this for a decade.   Continued...

<p>Winners of the 2008 Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology, French scientists Luc Montagnier (L-R) and Francoise Barre-Sinoussi for their discovery of the virus that causes AIDS, and German scientist Harald zur Hausen for his work into the cause of cervical cancer, pose before a news conference in Stockholm, December 6, 2008. REUTERS/Bob Strong</p>