A 44-year-old British man hopes that he may be the first person to be cured of HIV, and doctors who have worked on the new therapy are hopeful.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, attacks the body’s immune system, leaving someone vulnerable to viruses. HIV can eventually lead to AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. In order to suppress HIV, patients have traditionally undergone anti-retroviral therapy, which slows HIV.
The therapy the scientists developed involved tracking down and destroying HIV throughout the body, even the dormant cells. These dormant cells have been the challenge in finding a cure. However, using this method, the scientists found that HIV was undetectable in the blood of the patient, the first of 50 participating in the study.
Because there are two vaccines administered — one anti-retroviral therapy and one that awakens the dormant cells — the researchers are calling this “kick and kill” therapy.
Mark Samuels, managing director of the National Institute for Health Research‘s Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure, who lead the study, told The Times: “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.”
However, just because the virus is so far undetectable, it doesn’t mean that it has definitely been destroyed. Instead, the authors caution, it could be due to the anti-retroviral therapy that the patient is undergoing.
As for the patient, he is happy with the results so far.
“I took part in the trial to help others as well as myself,” the unidentified man told The Times.
“It would be a massive achievement if, after all these years, something is found to cure people of this disease. The fact that I was a part of that would be incredible.”
The hope is that, with HIV suppressed, it would prevent it from developing into AIDS.
The U.K. study was led by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and was a collaborative effort between Oxford University, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and King’s College London and University College London.
According to the amFAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, in 2015, there were 36.7 million people around the world living with HIV, 150,000 of which were under the age of 15. In Canada, it’s estimated that roughly 75,500 people were living with HIV in 2014.