AIDS scourge: Israeli medic ‘brings hope’ to Africa

By Yuh Timchia for Daily Monitor

Posted  Wednesday, November 21  2012 at  10:38

An Israeli medic is behind a seemingly ground-breaking treatment that could hold hope for HIV-infected patients across Africa.

Prof Shimon Slavin pioneered the novel technique of immunotherapy through stem cell transplantation.

He claims his new approach can effectively replace an immune system that has fallen apart with a new one, with minimal intoxication of patients, especially if the donors are resistant to HIV.

The Israeli was one of the two leading experts who addressed a weekend conference in Cameroon on the use of stem cells in anti-ageing medicine and in the treatment of malignant and non-malignant illnesses.

The conference was organised by the Yaoundé-based PK Fokam Institute of Excellence.

Prof Slavin, who is the medical and scientific director of Israel’s International Centre for Cell Therapy and Cancer Immunotherapy (CTCI) in Tel Aviv, says his immunotherapy technique is based on a newly discovered biological compound.

The compound he did not name but said was discovered by a Japanese scientist working in the US, “can activate macrophages, which are a type of white blood cells that form part of the human body’s defence mechanism, to eliminate infections and induce an immune response against infections”.

A pilot study, he says, has proven that this can do away with the viral load in persons with HIV, but affirms the results sample is still too small to lead to a broad-spectrum conclusion.

Collision course

He has expressed his readiness to carry out bigger clinical trials in Cameroon and other African countries if authorities give him their approval and purchase the compound.

“It is simple,” Prof Slavin says. “It’s one or two injections a week which patients themselves can administer at home. If we can prove that treatment with macrophage-activated factors indeed eliminates HIV, this will be important great news to the world.”

A great deal of HIV research has laid more stress on vaccines or drugs that only slow the progress of the virus.

In 2003, the late Prof Victor Anomah Ngu, who was Cameroon’s Health minister, announced the discovery of a therapeutic vaccine against HIV/Aids, but the findings of the researcher have not been formally validated.

Clinics set up by Prof Ngu in Cameroon continue to claim they effectively treat HIV.

Though Prof Slavin’s new technique could offer optimism that a ‘cure’ for HIV/Aids is in the offing, it could also put him on a collision course with pharmaceutical giants who have a lucrative market providing off-the-shelf anti-retrovirals (ARVs).

 

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