The IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute in Barcelona recently announced that a new treatment has successfully wiped out HIV in five patients.
The treatment, which the institute is prototyping, mixes two HIV vaccines with a cancer-treating drug. The two vaccines help create white blood cells that can find and eradicate HIV-infected cells. Meanwhile, the cancer drug, which is called Romidepsin, causes the virus to reveal itself wherever it lays dormant.
“If you have a prepared immune system, once a cell starts showing little parts of the virus, it should be recognized and eliminated,” Dr. Beatriz Mothe, a researcher at the institute, told the New Scientist. She added that while there is still more to do, “we’re on the right path.”
The institute administered the treatment for over three years to 24 patients. The virus is now undetectable in five of those patients, with one patient being completely off the antiretroviral medication (ART), a daily AIDS-prevention drug cocktail, for seven months.
Of the 37 million people in the world with HIV, roughly half take this cocktail every day to prevent the virus from developing into AIDS.
Unfortunately, the daily regimen chains HIV patients to the drug for life. While it may save lives, it is both costly and nasty with its side effects. This, according to experts, is precisely what makes IrsiCaixa’s new treatment so valuable.
“Long-term systems that don’t require daily pill taking could really help accelerate getting 37 million people with HIV undetectable and not infectious – that would be a great opportunity to turn the tide on the epidemic,” Mitchell Warren, the executive director of the Aids Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC), told The Independent.