A British man is about to become the first person in the world to be cured of HIV with the virus no longer present in his system following a clinical trial.
Scientists working on an experimental new therapy say that the virus is now completely undetectable in his blood. “It would be great if a cure has happened. My last blood test was a couple of weeks ago and there is no detectable virus,” the unnamed 44-year-old patient said.
This new treatment was designed by scientists from five UK universities.
HIV is normally difficult to fight as it hides from the immune system in dormant cells where it remains undetected. Current treatments, known as antiretroviral therapies (ART), slow the rate at which HIV multiplies in the body. They however cannot identify and eradicate it.
Potential HIV cure found
However, this new treatment has found a way around it. The virus is tricked into revealing itself which allows the body’s immune system to identify and attack it.
In the first stage of the treatment a vaccine helps the body recognize the HIV-infected cells. A new drug called Vorinostat then activates dormant cells where the virus has been hiding and multiplying. The immune system then eradicates them.
Professor Sarah Fidler is a consultant physician at Imperial College London. This was one of the universities involved in the treatment. She said the “therapy is specifically designed to clear the body of all HIV viruses, including dormant ones.”
However, the scientists warn that there’s a long, long way to go before this therapy can be confirmed as a positive. This is because this patient is just the first of 50 to finish the trial. He’ll have to wait months to confirm that the virus is no longer in his system.