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Scientists close in on HIV cure

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Scientists are inching closer to a cure for the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV), as the first immunotherapy drug proves safe for use in humans.

The first trial is an early but significant milestone for the team at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, United States (U.S.), which won a $20 million grant to realise its ideas.

Immunotherapy in the last couple of years, which trains a person’s immune system to attack a disease, became mainstream, and is being used to treat scores of conditions, from cancer to blindness.

However, scientists tread lightly when it comes to HIV, because attempts in the last 20 years to cure the virus with bone marrow transplants (another mainstream treatment, which replaces a person’s immune system with that of a donor) had proved fatal in all but one person.

For the first time, in a study published yesterday by the journal, Cell Reports, the North Carolina team confirmed its hopes: that immunotherapy could be administered to HIV-positive patients without a realistic risk of death – and many are tipping it as proof of a cure to HIV.

Co-senior author of the new paper, Dr. David Margolis, said: “We think that we will be able to replicate the results of the Berlin patient (the only person ever cured of HIV), but that will take a while, on a step-by-step trajectory.”

Meanwhile, no fewer than 20 million Nigerians are dying before they turn 70, a major report has revealed.

Scientists analysed the number of deaths from cancer, heart disease, lung disease and diabetes across 180 countries.

They calculated the probability of a 30-year-old man and woman dying before they turn 70 in each of the nations.

The report, published in the Lancet, is one of the most detailed global studies of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in history.


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