14 adults were “functionally cured” of HIV just one week after doctors reported the same results in a baby. The 14 adults involved in the study showed no signs of the disease reemerging from its hiding place, even after stopping treatment.
Some of the adults are still going strong up to a decade without the drugs. The average amount of time before re-emergence was 7.5 years.
The study was published in PLoS Pathogens and suggests that about 10 percent of patients who receive the treatment will not see a re-emergence of HIV. While the results to not prove the treatment is a cure for HIV, it is still a breakthrough for scientists. Most of the time people carry the virus for a long time before they notice they are infected.
Those involved in the study were started on drug treatments within 10 weeks of becoming infected. Normally when a patient stops taking their anti-HIV drugs, they immediately see a spike in viral levels, because there’s nothing keeping the virus from replicating itself. The results could help people infected with the disease by allowing them to stop treatment for a period of time.
A virus is able to develop a resistance to a drug if it is constantly exposed to it. This is the case with viruses and anti-HIV drugs. Therefore, taking them off for even a short period of time can help retain the drugs’ effectiveness.
The 14 patients involved in the study took antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) and stopped their regimes for one reason or another. Some made a personal choice while others were part of a trial of different drug protocols. While the 14 adults still have traces of HIV in their blood, they are at such low levels that their bodies can keep the virus in check without help.
Asier Sáez-Cirión of the Pasteur Institute’s unit for regulation of retroviral infections in Paris analyzed 70 people for the study. He stated of the results, “It’s not eradication, but they can clearly live without pills for a very long period of time.” While early intervention doesn’t always help, Sáez-Cirión stated that it is still recommended.
The researchers intend to look into why the treatments functionally cured 14 patients of HIV, but not others.
[Image via ShutterStock]