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Tuesday, 2 May, 2000, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Pain-free injection 'more effective'

The system could replace conventional injections
An injection system which fires drugs through the skin without a needle has shown promising results when used against HIV.

The research used an existing although still experimental HIV gene therapy, but achieved a better response in the laboratory than injection by the traditional method.

Powderject uses a jet of helium gas to push a dry powder through the skin, leaving no puncture mark.

It is hoped that eventually needle-free injections could revolutionise the lives of people who need regular injections, such as diabetics.

Powderject Pharmaceuticals, based in Oxford and the US, said their studies showed that the needle-free method could work just as well if not better.

When used in the laboratory, a spokesman said, an "unprecedentally" high immune response against the virus was provoked.

"This indicates that this type of response may protect against infection."

No vaccine yet

Regardless of the delivery method, scientists have yet to develop a totally effective vaccine against HIV.

This is because the virus is constantly evolving, mutating to form new versions of the virus which can evade the body's natural immune response."

The Powderject spokesman said: "These studies are extremely encouraging, and while a DNA vaccine for HIV remains several years away, they form a sound foundation for HIV DNA vaccine clinical trials."

Powderject's share price rose sharply as the research was published, only days after HIV and Aids were declared a threat to national security by the US government, which pledged more funds to help tackle the disease in developing countries.

A spokesman for the Terrence Higgins Trust stressed that research involved a delivery system for a possible HIV vaccine, rather than proving that such a vaccine could work in humans.

"A vaccine may still be some years off," he said.

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See also:

10 Jan 00 | Africa
US boost for Aids fight
19 Apr 00 | Americas
Mbeki causes row over AIDS
12 Jan 00 | Health
HIV drug regimes 'too tough'
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