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12.09.2005 General News

Controversy over goat serum deepens


Accra, Sept. 12, GNA - Prof. Nana Kofi Ayisi, a virologist, on Monday dismissed statements of leading scientists in the country suggesting that a goat serum tested in Ghana, which is said to be efficacious against the HIV-2 strain, was false and held no hope for patients living with the virus.

Prof. Ayisi, lead researcher of the goat serum, said the serum could be used to suppress and neutralise HIV-2 and therefore held a lot of hope for people infected with the virus.

He said the serum could also be used to develop diagnostic kits to test for the virus and what needed to be done by the sponsors and inventors was to develop the quality control measures and produce the anti-HIV sera under good laboratory practice and current good manufacturing practice.

Prof. Ayisi, also Head of Virology at the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, was addressing a press conference to throw more light on the serum, which has generated a media war among some of the country's best scientists and professors.

The virologist, who looked set to defend his research work on the serum to his last breath, said: "No political muzzling can be used on me. The future of the goat serum lies with combination therapy.... but more work needs to be done on it."

Some leading anti-HIV campaigners led by Prof. Fred Sai, Presidential Advisor on HIV/AIDS, last week at a press conference, rejected claims that the goat serum offered hope to people infected with the virus.

The rest were Prof. Awuku Sakyi Amoa, Director-General of the Ghana Aids Commission and Prof. David Ofori Adjei, Director of the Noguchi Memorial and Medical Institute (NMIMR).

Authorities at the Noguchi Memorial and Medical Institute (NMIMR), led by Prof. David Ofori Adjei, said tests conducted at the Institute showed that the product could react on HIV-2 strain in goats, but the tests were still preliminary.

The officials were reacting to a story carried in the September 6 edition of the Daily Graphic headlined: "Hope For HIV/AIDS Persons - New serum tested here proves effective."

Prof. Sai said: "We are nowhere near beginning to hope... we are nowhere near turning the product into a drug."

They said the media report about the virtues of serum was false and amounted to deceit of the Ghanaian population.

Prof. Sai said although Ghana had reputable institutions and scientists, the promoters of the goat serum had refused to allow the product to go through "rigorous scientific testing".

He said it was important to test the drug for both its effectiveness and toxicity levels because preliminary tests had only been conducted on a goat and not on humans.

According to Prof. Ayisi, at no point did he ever claim that his research team had found a cure for the HIV/AIDS scourge.

He said the serum held a lot of possibilities for further research since this was the first time a serum that could neutralise the HIV-2 strain had been found in the world.

"The work on HIV-2 in Ghana is the very first time anyone has produced neutralising antibodies against this HIV type. "It is hoped that the results from this research will keep alive the hope for an effective drug against HIV/AIDS."

On why no work was conducted on HIV-1, which is the commonest strain in Ghana and West Africa, Prof. Ayisi said they could not lay hands on HIV-1 strain quickly enough because no airline was willing to transport the virus from the US, due to many factors, including the fear brought on by recent attacks involving bio-terrorism.

On the way forward with the new research finding on the goat serum, Prof. Ayisi said it was up to the sponsors of the serum to make further contacts with the authorities in the country.