New research boosts search for AIDS cure

July 3, 2013 8:49 am
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American Timothy Ray Brown also known as the "Berlin patient" is an extraordinary case in the race to find a cure for AIDS, as the first patient apparently to be cured of an HIV infection/AFP
American Timothy Ray Brown also known as the “Berlin patient” is an extraordinary case in the race to find a cure for AIDS, as the first patient apparently to be cured of an HIV infection/AFP

, KUALA LUMPUR, July 3 – Fresh data from several small trials presented at an AIDS conference on Wednesday provides encouraging news in the quest for a cure for HIV, scientists said.

Giving an update in an eagerly-followed trial, researchers said an HIV positive infant in Mississippi who was put on a course of antiretroviral drugs within a few days of birth had remained free of the AIDS virus 15 months after treatment was stopped.

In Boston, two HIV positive men who were given bone-marrow transplants for cancer also had no detectable virus 15 weeks and seven weeks respectively after stopping AIDS drugs, a separate team reported.

Both research projects are at an early stage and should not be taken as a sign that a cure for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is around the corner, researchers cautioned at a world forum of AIDS scientists in Kuala Lumpur.

Even so, they said it strengthens the motivation for pursuing the once unthinkable goal of eradicating HIV or repressing it without daily drugs a condition referred to as a “functional cure” or “functional remission”.

“I don’t actually want to use the cure word in this situation,” said Timothy Henrich, from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, of the bone marrow study he is coleading.

“But what I can say is that if these patients are able to stay without detectable HIV for at least a year, maybe a year and a half, after we stop treatment, then the chances of the virus coming back are very small,” he told an AFP correspondent in Paris.

Introduced in 1996, the famous cocktail of antiretroviral drugs is a lifeline to millions with HIV.

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