AIDS Research Progressing, But No Cure on Horizon With AM-Hudson Bjt
LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Strides toward a cure for the disease that killed Rock Hudson have been phenomenal, but it’s impossible to know when AIDS might be conquered, a health official said Wednesday.
″There’s been an enormous amount of progress in learning about the disease″ since acquired immune deficiency syndrome was identified in 1981, said Patricia Randall of the National Institutes of Health in Washington, D.C.
In four years, scientists have isolated the virus that causes the disease, known as HTLV-III, and found several agents that seem to suppress it, she said.
Experimental treatment has begun on some AIDS victims, she said.
As of Monday, AIDS had struck 13,611 people in the United States and claimed 6,944 lives since 1979.
AIDS cripples the body’s immune system, making it vulnerable to a variety of illnesses that usually claim the lives of its debilitated victims, Ms. Randall said.
Among the more common afflictions that kill AIDS victims are pneumonia and Kaposi sarcoma, a cancer that causes brown blotches on the skin or internal organs, Ms. Randall said.
The disease apparently is spread by sexual contact, contaminated needles and blood transfusions, but not by casual contact. Its most common victims are homosexuals, abusers of injectable drugs and hemophiliacs.
Researchers are working on two fronts to develop a treatment for AIDS, Ms. Randall said. First, they are evaluating some anti-viral drugs that inhibit the growth of HTLV-III, including one called suramin. Among the drugs to be tested soon is HPA-23, with which Hudson was treated last year in Paris.
A gaunt Hudson returned to Paris this year for additional treatment, but when he checked into the American Hospital there July 21, physicians decided he was too weak to be a good candidate for its experimental therapy with an unproven drug.
Hudson returned to Los Angeles on Aug. 6 on a chartered Air France 747 and spent the next 18 days in UCLA Medical Center. Then he returned home.
Suramin and HPA-23 prevent the virus from reproducing, Ms. Randall said.
″It may seem to eliminate the virus from the blood stream, but it doesn’t seem to affect the condition (of the patient),″ she added.
To reverse the ravages of the disease, researchers also are examining ways to restore the patient’s immune system, Ms. Randall said.
Natural components of the system including interferon and a substance called interleukin have been manufactured in a laboratory setting and used as a supplement to the system, she said. Bone marrow transplants also are being considered, because the marrow manufactures many of the system’s cells.
Most researchers believe ″it is going to have to be some kind of combination treatment″ that is finally effective against the disease, Ms. Randall said. ″We’re just now starting to try the double approach.″