Could This Treatment Mean No More AIDS?
Researchers from Queensland, Australia, claim that they have discovered a potential treatment that could prevent HIV developing into AIDS, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports.
Associate Professor David Harrich of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research said that they figured out how to modify a protein in HIV so that it prevents the virus from spreading.
"I consider that this is fighting fire with fire," he said. "What we've actually done is taken a normal virus protein that the virus needs to grow, and we've changed this protein, so that instead of assisting the virus, it actually impedes virus replication and does it quite strongly."
Harrich stressed that although the protein does not cure HIV, it manages to protect human cells from AIDS during, according to trail results.
"So this protein present in immune cells would help to maintain a healthy immune system so patients can handle normal infections," he said.
Although clinical trials on humans won't happen for quite some time, Harrich said that if the tests are successful, HIV positive patients may only need one treatment and they would no longer have to take anti-viral medications. He added that the new treatment could improve the quality of life of those who are infected with the deadly virus.
"Drug therapy targets individual enzymes or proteins and they have one drug, one protein," he said. "They have to take two or three drugs, so this would be a single agent that essentially has the same effect. So in that respect, this is a world-first agent that's able to stop HIV with a single agent at multiple steps of the virus lifecycle."
Harrich went on to say, "You either have to eliminate the virus infection or alternatively you have to eliminate the disease process and that's what this could do, potentially for a very long time."
Animal trials for the treatment will begin this year and researchers are optimistic that the tests will yield positive results.
"This particular study is going to have some hurdles to jump through, but so far every test that we have put this protein through has passed with flying colors," he said. "This particular year we're moving this into animal models, and based on the preliminary data we have done we expect that this will proceed really quickly."
In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug that helps reduce the risk of HIV infection. Called Truvada, the pill, as the Associated Press reported, is used as a preventative measure for people who are at high risk of contracting HIV through sexual activity and for those who have HIV-infected partners -- in both cases, suggested for people who, for whatever reason, eschew condom use.