Drug Made of Egg Yolks: A New Hope for AIDS Victims
TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) _ A substance made from egg yolks which is spread on bread and eaten like butter has been effective in treating an initial group of seven AIDS victims without side effects, its Israeli originator said Tuesday.
But the country’s Health Ministry warned against unwarranted optimism, noting that only a small number of patients had been treated. And an American AIDS expert said it would be difficult to judge the results until they were described in a scientific format.
Professor Meir Shinitsky of the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot said all seven patients were in an advanced stage of AIDS, were treated with AL-721 and showed improvement.
Health Ministry officials said approval was granted to treat 14 additional patients, and that five of them already were undergoing treatment.
″We think we should react with great caution. It seems that this is still not the cure, but the direction to look for it,″ ministry spokesman Shmuel Algrabli said in a telephone interview.
Caution was also urged by Professor Avraham Morag of Hadassah Hospital, a member of the government-appointed ″Supreme Helsinki Committee on Human Experimentation″ which approved the experiment on 14 people.
″It’s still very, very early to draw conclusions and even express hope,″ said Morag.
Morag said Dr. Yehuda Skornik’s experiment in administering AL721 had not yet been carried out according to standard scientific procedure, including use of a control group and correct statistic analysis.
Dr. Samuel Broder, head of the clinical oncology program at the National Cancer Institute at Bethesda, Md., said Tuesday , ″All of us would look forward to seeing the scientific data upon which .. . (Shinitsky’s) conclusion is based, in a scholarly format, as soon as possible.
″Until we have a chance to look at this, it would be very difficult to draw conclusions about the potential efficacy of this approach,″ said Broder, who helped develop AZT, a drug recently licensed in the United States for use with some AIDS patients.
Shinitsky, 57, a membrane researcher at Weizmann, Israel’s largest independent scientific research foundation, said he devised AL-721 six years ago in conjunction with Professor David Samuel, an isotope specialist, as a treatment for infections suffered by geriatric patients.
In a telephone interview, Shinitsky said AL-721, also known by its commercial name of ″Active Lipid,″ was ″a product made of lipids (fats) isolated from ordinary hen egg yolks.″
″We tested it on humans and on animals and it showed no side effects,″ Shinitsky said. He said the tests on patients were conducted by Skornik, of Tel Aviv’s Rokah Hospital.
AIDS, or acquired immune deficiency syndrome, is an affliction in which the body’s immune system becomes unable to resist disease. No cure is known. AIDS was first identified in male homosexuals, hemophiliacs and intravenous drug abusers.
Shinitksy said the drug attacked the AIDS virus. ″Apparently, . .. (AL- 721) removes the cholesterol from the virus’ membrane so it becomes non- infective. The virus can no longer attack its target cells, the T-cells,″ he said.
Shinitsky said all of Skornik’s patients were seriously ill. Skornik said on Israel radio this month they all had improvement in their symptoms, such as diarrhrea, fever, pneumonia and weakness.
Shinitsky said the improvement results from the body’s immune system being restored.
Israel Radio reported Praxis Pharmaceuticals Co. of Beverly Hills, Calif., was ready to start large-scale testing on 400 AIDS patients in the United States and on a similar number in Israel, but was waiting for approval from U.S. Federal Drug Administration.