Monday December 16, 2019

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

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)

  • 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

More Than 7,000 People in Afghanistan Infected with HIV: WHO Report

Another HIV patient Omar, said: "If we go to hospitals and tell them that we have HIV Aids, they don't treat us."

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WHO
A study by WHO revealed that most of the European women with HIV are diagnosed at a late stage. Wikimedia Commons

Some 7,200 people in Afghanistan were estimated to be HIV positive, according to figures released by the the World Health Organization (WHO).

Marking World Aids Day, the WHO on Sunday called for a broader public awareness campaign in Afghanistan to deal with the issue, reports TOLO News.

But the Afghan Ministry of Public Health said that it registered only 2,883 cases of HIV in the country.

“According to our statistics, there are 2,883 cases of HIV registered in the country. The 7,200 cases reported by the World Health Organization are only an estimate,” said Fida Mohammad Paikan, deputy minister of public health.

AIDS and HIV
Stimulation of the wound healing response during early infection could have a protective effect against disease like AIDS from the HIV infection. Pixabay

Referring to factors behind the spread of the virus, Paikan said: “Last year the Ministry of Public Health registered 183 cases of HIV, and the figure has decreased to 150 new cases this year. But we need to undertake a comprehensive study to determine the exact number of those suffering from the disease.”

Victims however, have complained of social discrimination.

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Mohammad Idris, who contracted the disease from an infected needle during a drug injection, told TOLO News: “We are facing a lot of problems because we cannot share about our illness with others.”

Another HIV patient Omar, said: “If we go to hospitals and tell them that we have HIV Aids, they don’t treat us.” (IANS)