London: Treating people with HIV immediately after they have become infected with the virus that causes AIDS may be sufficient to achieve a “functional cure” at a small proportion of patients diagnosed early, according to new research.
Scientists in France who followed 14 patients that had been treated very swiftly with HIV medication but then ceased treatment discovered that even when they’d been off treatment for more than seven decades, they still showed no signs of the virus rebounding. The research, published in the journal PLoS Pathogens, follows news earlier this month about a baby girl in Mississippi in the US being efficiently cured of the HIV after receiving very early treatment.
[Read: Treatment of HIV and AIDS]
Christine Rouzioux, a professor at Necker Hospital and University Paris Descartes and also a part of the initial group who identified HIV 30 decades ago, said the new results demonstrated the amount of infected cells circulating in the blood of these patients, known as “post-treatment controllers”, kept falling without treatment for many years.
“Early treatment in these patients might have limited the institution of viral reservoirs, the degree of viral mutations, and maintained immune reactions. A combo of those may lead to control infection in post-treatment controls,” she explained. “The diminishing of viral reservoirs … closely matches the definition of ‘functional’ cure,” she explained. A practical cure clarifies when the virus has been reduced to such low levels it is kept at bay even without continuing treatment. The virus, however, is still detectable in the body.
The majority of the some 34 million people with HIV throughout the world might need to take anti-AIDS drugs called antiretroviral therapy for the whole of their lives. These medications generally keep the illness in check but also have side effects and a high cost impact on health programs. Worldwide, the number of individuals newly infected with HIV, which can be transmitted through blood and from semen during intercourse, is falling. At 2.5 million, the number of new infections in 2011 was 20% lower than in 2001, according to the United National AIDS programme (UNAIDS). And deaths from AIDS fell to 1.7 million in 2011 down from a peak of 2.3 million in 2005.
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