A British man is on the verge of becoming the first person in the world to be cured of HIV using a new therapy designed by a team of scientists from five United Kingdom universities.
A team of UK scientists from five research institutions has been working on the treatment therapy over the past few years, and the researchers are optimistic that the world’s first HIV cure could soon be a reality.
The new therapy works in four stages. Firstly, Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is used to make sure HIV is undetectable, then the patient is given two vaccines which help the body to recognise the HIV-infected cells in order to clear them out. Thirdly, a new drug called Vorinostat activates or wakes up the dormant HIV containing cells so they can be spotted by the immune system. Finally, the immune system, which is boosted by the vaccines, then attacks and kills the newly activated cells. The research group is mainly targeting the HIV reservoir where sleeping or dormant cells are activated and killed.
Initial findings of the initial phase indicate that the new treatment therapy could kill all traces of the virus. The first patient of the study was treated with the therapy, which is a first-of-its-kind and the blood of the 44-year-old man showed no detectable signs of HIV after the treatment was conducted.
However, the man will have to wait a few more months to confirm if indeed the virus has been eliminated. Researchers confirmed that there is a possibility that the virus could be undetectable because of the ART he has been taking, but the researchers are confident a cure if not too far off.
The research team is drawn from five top UK institutions: Oxford University, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, King’s College London and University College London.
The National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure (NOCRI), says further studies are being conducted and the final results of this ground-breaking study will be reviewed to ascertain if the the participants have been cured.
“Our study will report in 2018, and at that point we will know if the intervention has had an effect. We already know that the intervention was well tolerated in our first participant and we await the results of further participants,” NOCRI says.
News of possible cure is welcome considering the high rate of new HIV infections globally. An estimated 37 million people are now living with HIV around the world and more than two-thirds (70 percent) of all people living with HIV, 25.8 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014, an estimated 1.4 million people in the region became newly infected.