A purified version of an abortion drug used in China has been shown to selectively kill AIDS-infected cells in the test tube - a unique and promising feat, scientists reported.

The potential of the compound, GLQ223, derived from the root tuber of a cucumber plant, is so great the American Foundation for AIDS Research broke its rule against commenting on new drugs and issued a statement of hope and a warning Thursday."We feel this is potentially a very promising drug because it is the only one we know that in a test tube can selectively kill HIV-infected cells and leave non-infected cells alone," said Mitchell Speer, editor of a directory put out by the New York-based foundation that lists all AIDS therapies.

But Speer cautioned: "We are very concerned people understand this is a highly purified version of the abortion-inducing agent available in China and not try to get the Chinese product on the underground circuit."

The team found that in cell cultures, GLQ223 appears to destroy cells infected with the AIDS-causing human immunodeficiency virus or HIV and to inhibit HIV producation without hurting healthy cells.