SAN DIEGO — Polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk says he will be the first uninfected person injected with his experimental AIDS vaccine.
"I want to answer the implicit question: 'Would you take it yourself?' " Salk said from Paris in a telephone interview with The San Diego Union.
Salk, who plans to inject himself before the end of the year, said he hopes to show that the vaccine is safe for the next group of uninfected volunteers who will receive it: celibate nuns and priests.
He based his vaccine on a deactivated version of the AIDS virus, much like the polio vaccine he developed in the 1950s. He hopes to help people infected with the AIDS virus as well as immunize uninfected people against the disease.
Salk, 76, said he injected himself with an influenza vaccine that he worked on in 1942 and also tried out his polio vaccine in 1952.
His approach uses the vaccine to boost the body's immune defenses after the AIDS virus has already become established. Traditionally, vaccines have been used solely to prevent an initial infection from occurring.
In a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine, doctors from the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research presented evidence that one such vaccine seemed to at least temporarily halt the loss of crucial white cells in people with AIDS infections.
Salk is directing a multinational effort to develop an AIDS vaccine at the Salk Institute in nearby La Jolla. He received federal approval last year to begin large-scale testing of an experimental AIDS vaccine.