A French girl has allegedly been completely cured from AIDS. She was infected at birth and was subjected to treatment till she reached 6 years of age. The therapy was stopped for unknown reasons, and more than a decade later, she exhibited no sign of active infection.
The case of the French teenager was presented at an AIDS meeting in Vancouver on Monday this week; it might help with the largest trial performed to find a cure for HIV patients.
After years gone without treatment, the girl was seen by a doctor who concluded that the HIV was not flowing in an unbridled manner in her blood. It was then decided to keep her monitored by doctors to determine whether the virus would rebound. The virus can be detected in her blood, but it is dormant such that drugs are not needed to keep it at bay.
Francoise Barre-Sinoussi, who won a Nobel Prize in 2008 for her co-discovery of HIV as the cause of AIDS, commented on the case.
“This case is clearly additional evidence of the powerful benefit of starting treatment as soon as possible,” Barre-Sinoussi said in a statement.
Normally, the virus hides away from the drugs that are currently used to treat HIV-infected patients. If treatment is stopped, it then rebounds. Scientists have, however, theorised that using the drugs in an aggressive manner at the very beginning might prevent the virus from getting the upper hand. This hypothesis can be exemplified with another case of a group of French adults who were treated soon after infection back in a 2012 study. They had thereafter shown no sign of the virus when the therapy was stopped. Therefore, it has been concluded that the virus might thus be prevented from getting a firm grip on the body without causing side effects.
The researchers now wish to replicate the results on a much larger scale. They will attempt to “neutralise” the deadly virus by initiating treatment soon after infection, and stopping it afterwards to test their hypothesis. This experiment will cost US$5 million and might start next year with 100 patients as participants, as announced by the lead researchers, Steve Deeks, from the University of California, San Francisco.
“Ultimately we can achieve a functional cure in these individuals who start therapy very early,” Deeks said. “It’s going to be far easier to do than to take a typical person who’s got a ton of virus, been infected for a long time, and try to cure them.”
“What the field needs to do next to confirm this is real is to interrupt therapy in a controlled manner in a large number of individuals and see what happens,” Deeks said.