A group of scientists working with clinicians said they have made significant progress in a trial geared towards finding a possible cure for HIV infection.
The United Kingdom scientists announced the development after a test patient showed no signs of the virus after “complete treatment”.
The research, which was carried out by five of Britain’s top universities in collaboration with the National Heal Service (NHS), combined antiretroviral drugs with a drug that reactivates dormant HIV and a vaccine that makes the immune system destroy infected cells.
It is the first therapy created to track down and destroy HIV in every part of the body — including in the dormant cells that evade current treatments. If successful it offers hope of an irreversible cure for HIV.
The 44-year-old test patient is one of 50 people to complete a trial of the ambitious treatment, which is ongoing.
“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’s still early days but the progress has been remarkable,” said Mark Samuels, the managing director of the National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure, according to a report by the Sunday Times
HIV has the ability to hide from the immune system in dormant cells; hiding from tests and resisting therapy. Before now, patients have to use antiretroviral drugs for life because it does not have the capacity to eradicate the disease.
But the current research, according to the scientists, tries to trick the virus into emerging from its hiding place and triggers the body’s immune system to recognise and attack it.
There are approximately 37 million people living with HIV worldwide and about 35 million people have died from the virus.
The only person believed to have been cured of HIV is Timothy Ray Brown, an American treated in Germany.
Brown needed a bone marrow transplant to replace his own cancerous cells with stem cells that would remake his immune system.
His doctor found him a donor who was naturally resistant to HIV infection due to a genetic mutation that blocks HIV from entering the cells in the human body.
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