Thursday October 18, 2018

Cure for AIDS? Scientists in US Achieve ‘Functional Cure’ for HIV in Monkey Model

Researchers are now planning human clinical trials of the vaccine-drug cocktail to begin next year

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FILE - A doctor draws blood from a man to check for HIV/AIDS. VOA
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November 10, 2016: U.S. scientists have devised a way to put the virus that causes AIDS into remission. It’s not a cure per se, but could someday offer HIV patients years of life without drugs.

Scientists are calling it a “functional cure.” An experimental treatment regimen is being developed that could offer HIV-positive people something similar to a cure, so they wouldn’t have to take antiretroviral drugs every day to manage their disease.

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In the journal Nature, scientists are reporting that they’ve achieved remission in primates infected with SIV, a monkey version of HIV, by using a combination of a vaccine and a drug.

Waking a sleeping virus

An HIV-positive person who takes antiretroviral drugs is simply suppressing the AIDS virus to undetectable levels. But the virus is not really gone. It is lying dormant in immune system cells, ready to spring to life the moment someone stops taking the medication.

The new approach uses a drug to wake the latent virus. Then, in a one-two punch, the virus is attacked by the immune system, which has been stimulated by a vaccine to target the HIV.

Nelson Michael, who directs the HIV research program at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland, sees such a “functional cure” as a game-changer in the battle against the AIDS virus.

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“This is where we’re beginning to edge into that space,” he said. “And we’re basically developing the rationale that we can actually envision a day that that will be what happens — that someone would not have to take drugs every day, because those things that we could do would buy them a lot of time where they wouldn’t have to take drugs. That’s really the story.”

In a two-year study, Michael and his colleague Dan Barouch, director of vaccine research at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, gave a group of 36 rhesus monkeys on antiretroviral drugs either a vaccine alone, an immune stimulant called TLR-7, or a combination of the two agents.

The monkeys that got the vaccine alone saw a tenfold drop in their viral load, while Michael said the animals on the TLR-7 drug saw no improvement.

Combination’s effect

“The really exciting thing is that when we combined the TLR-7 and the vaccine, then we saw, after we took the animals off of antiretroviral drugs, that the level of virus that they were replicating fell by a hundredfold. And in some of these animals it looks like we may be actually in a position where there’s not much virus left circulating at all,” said Michael.

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He stressed that the monkeys were still infected, but that the virus was no longer causing any trouble because the regimen had trained the immune system to keep it at bay.

Michael envisions a “drug holiday” for patients where they go for years without needing antiretroviral drugs unless the virus resurfaces.

Researchers are now planning human clinical trials of the vaccine-drug cocktail to begin next year. (VOA)

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  • Ruchika Kumari

    Such a good news……hope this gonna work on humans too

  • Antara

    Fantastic news! Another medical achievement!

  • Diksha Arya

    Great news… maybe the cure would work on humans too..

Next Story

Individual Types of HPV Linked to HIV Infection

Previous study with female sex workers showed that the HPV vaccine still provided protection to high-risk groups

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HIV
Nearly 40 individual HPV types linked to HIV infection. Pixabay

Scientists have for the first time identified 37 individual types of the human papillomavirus, or HPV, that are specifically linked to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection.

The findings showed that a person with any HPV type, more than one HPV type, or high-risk HPV are more likely to test positive for HIV.

“Although most studies have shown a general link between HPV and HIV co-infection, our findings illustrate the strong relationship between individual HPV types and HIV infection,” said lead author Brandon Brown, Associate Professor at the University of California, Riverside.

“Some HPV types are more linked to cancer and others to warts. This further illustrates the potential utility of HPV vaccine for men who have sex with men and trans women, not only for HPV prevention but also possibly for HIV prevention,” Brown added.

Brown explained that previous research has shown that HPV, in general, was linked to HIV infection, but his research team looked at infection with 37 HPV types and found that individual types are linked, “which is more specific than saying HPV is linked”.

The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, identified HPV types such as HPV16, 18, 31, 33, 35, 52, 58, linked to HIV.

For the study, the team investigated nearly 600 men who have sex with men, or MSM, and transgender women in Lima, Peru.

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School girls light candles in the shape of a ribbon during a HIV/AIDS awareness campaign ahead of World Aids Day, in Ahmedabad, India, Nov. 30, 2016. (VOA)

Brown and his colleagues started with two groups, one with genital warts and one without, and followed participants over two years to see who contracted HIV.

Of the 571 participants who completed at least two study visits, 73 acquired HIV in two years — a 6 per cent HIV incidence rate.

Previous study with female sex workers showed that the HPV vaccine still provided protection to high-risk groups.

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Regarding prevention and treatment, Brown recommends the HPV vaccine, widely provided to everyone regardless of sex, gender, or sexual orientation before sexual debut, and for genital wart treatment.

“Even if the vaccine is not provided before sexual debut, there can be strong benefit if given at any time to prevent HPV-associated disease and also HIV,” he said.

“We know that HPV is the most common STI, and we know that HPV vaccine works to prevent chronic HPV infection. What we need now is to implement the vaccine in a better way. The availability in many other developing countries is low at best and absent at worst.” (IANS)

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