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A medicine that blocks the AIDS virus from getting inside cells has shown promise as a last-ditch treatment for patients who fail to respond to standard AIDS drugs.

The medicine, code-named T-20, is still in early stage testing, but researchers said Monday that it could offer a reprieve for those who have run out of options.

The drug is the furthest along of a new class of AIDS medicines called fusion inhibitors. They work by thwarting the virus' ability to fuse with blood cells and insert their genetic material into them.

"It looks quite good," said Dr. Michael Saag of the University of Alabama. "We are looking at something with a totally different method of action. It is an important, potent new option."

However, the treatment has one large drawback, compared with other AIDS drugs: Instead of being a pill, it must be injected twice daily. Nevertheless, Saag said, patients in advanced stages of AIDS are willing to give themselves shots, and they seem to tolerate the drug well.

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