Monday, 10 November 2014

HIV discovery offers new lead in finding cure

French scientists report finding a genetic mechanism by which they believe two men were spontaneously cured of HIV.   

Testing samples. Photo Courtesy of Reuters
French scientists have reported finding a genetic mechanism by which they believe two men were spontaneously cured of HIV, a breakthrough that could lead to a new approach in the fight against AIDS.

Scientists at Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris tested 1,700 people diagnosed as HIV-positive, then focused their research on two men.

One was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1985, but never suffered any illness linked to the HIV infection, despite being continuously exposed to the virus through syringes he shared with his HIV-positive wife.

The other man was diagnose HIV-positive in 2011, but has never been ill and the virus cannot now be detected with routine blood tests.

"HIV from the two studied patients was inactivated by interruptions in their genes," said researcher Philippe Colson. "HIV is still present but is no more able to replicate."

The scientists believe the virus was deactivated by the combined effect of a common enzyme and a viral protein, resulting in spontaneous changes to the men's DNA.

Despite still being HIV-positive, the genetic changes gave the men protection from the virus.

The researchers said genetic changes of this nature are not unusual in both humans and other mammals, especially when provoked by a retrovirus like HIV.

"We believe that the persistence of HIV DNA can lead to cure, and protection from HIV," Colson and co-author Didier Raoult wrote in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection.
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Source: Al Jazeera