Though it is too early to celebrate, this significant success could prove to be a major step towards curing HIV – the virus that causes AIDS. According to reports, the first of the 50 people who underwent a trial of a new therapy shows no sign of the virus indicating that he has possibly been cured of the disease.
The 44-year-old British man, who is a social worker, took part in the experiment conducted by scientists from five UK universities.
HIV drugs at a pharmacy store. AFP/Getty Images
According to the scientists, the virus is “completely undetectable” in the man’s blood. But they caution that it could be because of the presence of the administered drugs in his body.
They will observe if the dormant cells of the HIV have been fully eradicated. If that happens, it would mark the first complete cure for one of the world’s most widespread diseases.
Prevalent therapies control the active HIV cells, not the dormant ones. This means that the HIV can be controlled but not cured. The new therapy, on the other hand, attempts to target those dormant cells by luring them into a trap.
A vaccine is first administered to the body of a patient, which boost the immune system and helps kill active HIV cells. Then a drug is applied which reactivates the dormant cells, which are then found and eliminated by the vaccine.
An artists’ impression of HIV virus in the bloodstream.
“This is one of the first serious attempts at a full cure for HIV,” Mark Samuels, managing director of the National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure, told The Sunday Times
. “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,” he added. The trial is being undertaken by researchers from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London and King’s College London. Around 37 million people worldwide are infected with HIV. The tests will continue for the next five years. Trial results are expected to be published in 2018.