TOOLS: Modeling an AIDS Vaccine

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Science  16 Mar 2001:
Vol. 291, Issue 5511, pp. 2053
DOI: 10.1126/science.291.5511.2053a

The most successful AIDS vaccine so far—in monkey experiments, at least—is a preparation made from a live, weakened version of the AIDS virus. But scientists haven't pursued this strategy for humans, because the vaccine itself could cause the disease in some cases. A new online computer model developed in the lab of biomathematician and evolutionary biologist Sally Blower of the University of California, Los Angeles, illustrates how this controversial vaccine strategy might affect different populations. At Blower's site, interactive Java applets show that even if such a vaccine caused AIDS in 5% of recipients, it could still help stem the epidemic in a country like Zimbabwe, where transmission of HIV is high. But in Thailand, where transmission rates are much lower, the vaccine could lead to an increase in the number of AIDS cases. Visitors can also tweak models that explore resistance to drugs aimed at thwarting AIDS, tuberculosis, and genital herpes.

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