Researchers examine promising cures to end the global epidemic
HIV/AIDS has remained on the top ten leading causes of death worldwide during the last ten years according to the World Health Organization (WHO). For the last three decades scientists, clinicians and physicians have been looking for a cure. Worldwide 35.3 million people are living with HIV/AIDS. New global efforts have risen especially in the last decade to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Currently there are only a few people who have been cured of HIV. Enter Timothy Brown known as the Berlin Patient and believed to be the first person cure of HIV. In 1995 while studying abroad in Berlin, Germany, Brown was diagnosed with HIV. For a number of years Brown used antiretroviral therapy (ART) to control the virus. ART consists of the combination of at least three antiretroviral drugs to maximally suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of HIV disease. Over a decade of controlling HIV with ART, Brown was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and underwent chemotherapy that proved unsuccessful. In 2007, Brown underwent a stem cell transplant but instead of using a matched donor the doctors used an unrelated donor who screened positive for CCR5-delta 32. CCR5-delta 32 is responsible for the two types of HIV resistance that exist. CCR5-delta 32 hampers HIV's ability to infiltrate immune cells. Only one percent of Caucasians carry a gene mutation that triggers this immunity. The transplant had treated the leukemia but also had eradicated the HIV. Brown had stopped all antiviral medications the day of the transplant.
VISCONTI cohort; a functional cure
Researchers from France, led by Dr. Asier Sáez-Cirión, PhD, assistant professor, Pasteur Institute, looked at 14 adult patients with HIV that started antiretroviral therapy shortly after being infected with HIV and continued the treatment for one year and then discontinued treatment. As of 2012, the patients appeared to have the virus under control, as reported by researchers at the XIX International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2012). According to the published study ( DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003211) the researchers the results showed “early and prolonged cART may allow some individuals with a rather unfavorable background to achieve long-term infection control and may have important implications in the search for a functional HIV cure.”
The Cherub Collaboration (Collaborative HIV Eradication of viral Reservoirs: UK BRC)
A new trial will be conducted by the Cherub Collaboration a group of internationally recognized researchers from Oxford University, Imperial College London, the University of Cambridge, University College London and King’s College London will be testing a possible cure for HIV. The trial will include 50 patients with early stages of HIV.
Dr. Sarah Fidler, Department of Genitourinary Medicine & HIV, Imperial College London and Dr. John Frater, University Research Lecturer in Infectious Diseases, Oxford University will lead this trial with hope that this trial will provide proof that a cure for HIV is possible. According to the trials press release Dr. Frater commented, “We can only truly know if someone is cured of HIV if we stop giving them antiretroviral therapy.” “We’re not going to do that, but we will test if we can reduce the number of HIV-infected cells in these patients. If we can, it will prove in principle that this strategy could work as a cure, even though it will need many more years of further development,”
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Gene therapy is being looked to increase a person’s resistance to the HIV virus. This year a trial enrolled 12 patients with chronic aviremic HIV infection in an open-label, nonrandomized, uncontrolled study received a a single dose of ZFN-modified autologous CD4 T cells during the time they were receiving highly active antiretroviral therapy. The results showed an increased resistance to the virus.
Ailing Granule shows breakthrough results in HIV/AiDS
On October 17, 2010, Guang'anmen Hospital announced results of a clinical trial that stated in 2008. The trial examined the effect of Ailing granule on the function of immunological cells in people living with HIV/AIDS who had taken this prescription by analyzing CD4 count, CD8 count and the abilities of cytokines secretion (IFN-γ and IL-4).
A total of 45 patients with HIV/AIDS were treated with prescription of Ailing granule with treatment lasting on a average of four months. The results showed Ailing Granule could significantly alleviate the symptoms of HIV/AIDS patients, improve their immune function, inhibit HIV reproduction to a certain extent or keep it stable. No obvious toxic or adverse reaction was seen.
In an article titled “AIDS Turing Point; “A Cure is Possible” that appears online in Spiegel International , Associate Professor Jan van Lunzen, AiDS researcher, Hamburg, Medical Director of the Infectious Diseases Unit at the University Medical Centre Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany and head of the HIV Clinical Trial Unit at the Centre commented "Today we can dream of a cure.”