British scientists appear to be on the brink of an enormous scientific breakthrough as a 44-year-old man from London is seemingly cured of HIV. The man was part of a group of fifty people trialling a new treatment conceived by a team of scientists from five top UK universities.
The “kick and kill” therapy consists of tracking down and destroying HIV in every part of the body, including in the dormant cells that current treatments cannot tackle.
Most patients are currently treated using antiretroviral therapy but the life-long treatment is not a complete cure as it fails to spot dormant-infected cells.
As the Guardian explains, the new treatment consists of two steps which combine “standard antiretroviral drugs with a drug that reactivates dormant HIV and a vaccine that induces the immune system to destroy the infected cells”.
“We’re exploring the real possibility of curing HIV.”
The as yet unnamed patient has passed all preliminary blood tests and appears to show no signs of the virus. However, the scientists are reluctant to speak of a definitive success as HIV has re-emerged in those thought to have been cured before.
All the same, director of the NHS’s National Institute for Health Research Mark Samuels remains optimistic stating:
“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.”
Professor Sarah Fidler, a consultant physician at Imperial College London, explains that tests of the treatment will be carried out for a further five years.
Born in 2010 the ‘Mississippi baby’ was thought to be the first person to be cured of the virus following an aggressive drug treatment taken immediately after birth. Unfortunately, the child started showing signs of HIV a couple of years later.
Only one person in the world has been cured of HIV: American citizen Timothy Brown received a stem cell transplant from a patient with natural immunity in 2008.