Will we ever have an HIV functional cure?
In medical news, a group of AIDS researchers in Hong Kong has recently come up with an HIV functional cure that was tested on mice.
With this discovery, researchers claimed that it’s possible that a functional cure for HIV– the virus that causes AIDS– may soon be discovered.
Finding an HIV functional cure to treat AIDS
The group, whose findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, were led by Professor Chen Zhiwei of Hong Kong University’s AIDS Institute.
Their discovery is a new antibody that can help control HIV and eliminate infected cells. More importantly, this antibody can treat all types of HIV.
Chen told Reuters that this is a first as there is no one vaccine that can treat the different types of HIV viruses.
“For our newly discovered bispecific antibody, it works for all of them, so that’s the major difference,” Chen said.
The doctor related that they plan to bring the antibody to clinical trials within three to five years.
An HIV functional cure to have a normal life
Through this “functional cure,” someone with HIV would have a virus level so low as to be almost undetectable in the body.
However, those infected still need to keep taking injections of the antibody on a quarterly basis– or even less frequently.
Currently, those infected keep the virus under control via antiretroviral drugs that prevent it from infecting new cells.
However, the current type of treatment must be taken daily and doesn’t take out the infected cells from the body. Since the virus is still present, the symptoms can return if the patient stops taking medication.
Andrew Chidgey, chief executive of the charity group AIDS Concern in Hong Kong, said that despite this report, he doubts that the treatment will be soon available.
“Governments are being very slow to implement programmes here. So just because a treatment becomes available, doesn’t mean that people will get it, or that it will have an impact,” Chidgey said.
How long before there’s an HIV functional cure?
While HIV research was changed thanks to antiretroviral therapy, which saved the lives of millions, the current goal of medicine to find an HIV cure before 2020.
But it’s not even about eliminating HIV though: they’re aiming for the functional cure, which leaves people with HIV still healthy and medication-free.
Abivax, a French company, is using a similar approach used to treat herpes infections, i.e. targeting the reservoir of HIV viruses that “hide” inactive within the cells, as well as latent viruses in the intestine.
Bionor, a Norwegian company, is using a “shock and kill” strategy using a double vaccine that stimulates the production of antibodies that block HIV replication while the other targets the reservoir.
On the other hand, billionaire Bill Gates is supportive of the development of HIV immunotherapies, which supercharges immune cells to help the immune system against HIV.
Unfortunately, the current cast of possible functional cures haven’t gotten yet to the late-stage clinical testing. As such, it’s doubtful that the world will meet its goal of an HIV cure by 2020.