Early HIV drugs 'functionally cure about one in 10'
18 March, 2013
Boston: Rapid treatment after HIV infection may be enough to "functionally cure" about a 10th of those diagnosed early, say researchers in France.
They have been analysing 14 people who stopped therapy, but have since shown no signs of the virus resurging.
It follows reports of a baby girl being effectively cured after very early treatment in the US.
However, most people infected with HIV do not find out until the virus has fully infiltrated the body.
The group of patients, known as the Visconti cohort, all started treatment within 10 weeks of being infected. The patients were caught early as they turned up in hospital with other conditions and HIV was found in their blood.
They stuck to a course of antiretroviral drugs for three years, on average, but then stopped.
The drugs keep the virus only in check, they cannot eradicate it from its hiding places inside the immune system.
There have been two stories about HIV 'cures' in two weeks now - yet the latest developments offer little to the majority of people living with HIV.
In the Mississippi baby case and in the Visconti cohort the infection was caught very early, within weeks, at a vulnerable stage.
This suggests that by hitting the virus hard when it first infects the body, it might be possible to live for years without needing treatment - a functional cure.
However, these patients were the lucky few who were detected in the days and weeks after infection. Most cases are detected years later. For these patients a cure looks, at best, distant.
The hope is that by investigating how patients treated early, and a group of people who are genetically resistant to HIV, can combat the virus - it will give scientists clues for developing cures for everyone else.