Yet Another AIDS Cure?!

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NEW YORK: Maybe it's the tantalizing idea that the human body, somehow, can cure itself. Maybe it's that "a protein found in the urine of pregnant women" just has more zing than a stodgy term like "protease inhibitor." But press outlets are frothing over an article in the April issue of Nature Medicine that touts an obscure protein's tumor-shrinking powers as the next step toward an AIDS vaccine.

TIME medical correspondent Christine Gorman has heard this too many times before. "In the history of AIDS, lead after lead has been built up as the next cure," she says, "and it hasn't panned out. For instance, wouldn't it stand to reason that if this were true, pregnant women wouldn't come down with AIDS? And that's not the case."

The finding has potential, but so do many other developments -- not least an Italian study, announced today and mostly ignored, of hemophiliacs who resisted HIV infection because of high levels of immune system proteins. "That's at least as promising," says Gorman. "Why doesn't it get any coverage? It's really irresponsible."