Smallpox vaccine may have slowed spread of AIDS

The discontinuation of the smallpox vaccine may have been a factor in the spread of AIDS , according to the results of a study recently published in BMC Immunology.

Researchers in the study initially set out to look at the extensive spread of HIV that began as early as the 1950’s. Through their studies, the researchers theorized that the wide-scale use of the smallpox vaccine in the early 20th century gave some sort of protection from HIV.

That protection ended, however, with the eradication of smallpox because people no longer had the need to receive the immunization, the researchers told

To test their theory, the researchers gathered immune cell samples from 10 people who received the smallpox vaccine within the past three to six months. They then gathered cells from 10 people who had not. All of the cells were exposed to HIV, according to the study.

Results showed that HIV replicated at slower rates in those who had the smallpox vaccine. The findings showed a five-fold decrease in HIV reproduction in the vaccinated patients over those who had not received the smallpox vaccine.

“Further studies along these lines involving larger groups of subjects are needed to substantiate our results and to fully elucidate the mechanism at work,” the researchers concluded in their report.