Scientists close to HIV cure as treated patient shows ‘remarkable’ progress
Scientists are close to a breakthrough in the search for a Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) cure as a British man suffering from the virus shows “remarkable” progress after treatment.
According to a report published in DailyMailUK online, the scientists treating the 44-year-old patient are hopeful of him being cured of the disease as he takes part in a medical trial described as “one of the first serious attempts at a full cure for HIV.”
Research teams from five of Britain’s leading universities have collaborated with the National Health Service (NHS) to launch the project, which involves 50 people completing a trial.
The man, who was the first to take part, told the Sunday Times London that recent blood tests showed that no detectable HIV virus was present, although it was too early to confirm that the treatment had worked.
The Managing Director of the National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure, Mark Samuels told the Sunday Times: “This is one of the first serious attempts at a full cure for HIV. We are exploring the real possibility of curing HIV. This is a huge challenge and it is still early days but the progress has been remarkable.”
The new therapy uses a two-stage attack on the virus and aims to overcome a major barrier to clearing HIV from a sufferer’s body – something that has challenged researchers for decades.
Current methods using antiretroviral therapies (ARTs) fall short of ridding patients of HIV, as the virus can hide out of the drugs’ reach in the immune system’s T-cells.
By sheltering in dormant T-cells, the virus can later take over its host and use it to produce thousands of copies of itself .
The research by Oxford and Cambridge universities, Imperial College London, University College London, and King’s College London, is testing a ‘kick and kill’ technique to first expose, then destroy the virus.
First a vaccine helps the body find infected T-cells. This is then followed by a course of the drug Vorinostat that awakens the dormant T-cells, which then begin producing HIV proteins that act as a homing beacon to the immune system.
Imperial College London consultant physician Prof. Sarah Fidler said the treatment worked in the laboratory and there was “good evidence” it would work in patients. However, she added: “We must stress we are still a long way from any actual therapy.”