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Breakthrough in the fight against AIDS and HIV

by Redaktie in Health & Body , 11 April 2013

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

The Queensland Institute of Medical Research claims to have discovered how a HIV protein can be changed in order to protect the body from infection and counteract further spreading of the virus. Professor David Harrich says that 'even though we cannot cure HIV with this, by changing the found protein, the human cells will be protected from AIDS.'

Not a cure

Harrich explains what happened: we took an ordinary viral protein, which the virus needs to grow and multiply, and changed the protein, so that the virus can no longer grow. In the long run, this would keep the HIV virus under control, and enable the patient's immune system to function normal again.

People would still be HIV positive, but the therapy could be a possible cure for AIDS. In other words, people would no longer die from infections, as is still often the case. If future tests are positive, people may only need one treatment, eliminating the need to take medication on a daily basis. Animal trials are planned to begin later this year, and the first results seem to be encouraging.

HIV infected baby cured

An American baby that was infected with the HIV virus, has been pronounced cured by doctors. After the child was born, it was immediately treated with a very high dose of AIDS inhibitors. Meanwhile, the girl is 2.5 years old, and has gone without treatment for almost a year. The case was discussed during the 20th annual conference on retroviruses and opportunistic infections in Atlanta, Georgia. The mother passed the HIV infection onto her child, but the child now has a normal life expectancy, is HIV-free, and does not need to take medication.

Even though the child's treatment was unique, and doctors do not really know why the child is cured, it does open up new roads in finding a way to cure babies and smaller children with HIV. Especially in Africa, this cure would make a world of difference, as 3.4 million children are reported to have been infected with HIV. According to scientists, knowledge about the treatment of the child could influence standard medical practice. But they do underline that their first goal should be the prevention of viral transference from mother to child. At the moment, there are treatments available for this. In 98% of all cases, the treatment is successful.

Up to now, it had not been proven that it is possible to stop an effective infection within hours after birth. Within several hours after it was born, the child was given a high dose of antivirals which ensured that the virus could not spread. The question remains if the child will stay cured for the rest of her life.

These insights on curing babies are very useful, as they show that a functional cure is possible, but it remains to be seen if this effect can be shown in others. The only human that was ever cured of HIV (and which could be proven) is Timothy Brown. He was suffering from leukaemia and had a bone marrow transplant that caused an unusual genetic mutation, making it impossible for the HIV virus to penetrate his cells. In his case, doctors were also unable to explain how this was possible, and whether he will be cured for life.



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