Sunday February 25, 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

HIV Infected Smokers More likely to die of lung cancer than AIDS, Reveals Indian-origin Researcher

Smoking kills! A recent research reveals a vicious reality about the people infected with HIV, who loves to smoke, are more likely to die from lung cancer than from AIDS.

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lung cancer
Cigarette smoking is injurious to health. Pixabay

New York, September 20, 2017: People living with HIV who adhere to antiretroviral therapy, but smoke tobacco cigarettes are more likely to die from lung cancer than from AIDS, a study led by an Indian-origin researcher has revealed.

The findings showed that overall people with HIV who take antiviral medicines, but who also smoke are six to 13 times more likely to die from lung cancer than from HIV/AIDS, depending on the intensity of smoking and their sex.

“Smoking and HIV are a particularly bad combination when it comes to lung cancer,” said lead author Krishna Reddy, MD, Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

“Lung cancer is now one of the leading killers of people with HIV, but most of these deaths can be prevented,” added Rochelle Walensky, Professor at Harvard Medical School.

Among men who continued to be heavy smokers, an estimated 29 percent would die of lung cancer by age 80, as would 23 per cent of moderate smokers and 19 per cent of light smokers.

For women who continued to be heavy smokers, an estimated 29 percent would die of lung cancer by age 80, as would 21 per cent of moderate smokers and 17 per cent of light smokers.

“The data tell us that now is the time for action: smoking cessation programmes should be integrated into HIV care just like antiviral therapy,” Reddy said in the paper published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

However, among those who managed to quit smoking at age 40, only about six per cent die of lung cancer.

“Quitting smoking is one of the most important things that people with HIV can do to improve their health and live longer,” suggested Travis Baggett, Assistant Professor at the Harvard Medical School.

ALSO READ: Cases of Glaucoma show a rising trend in India, can be caused by Smoking: Doctors

Besides reducing the risk of lung cancer, quitting will also decrease their risk of other diseases such as heart attack, stroke and emphysema, the researchers said. (IANS)