LONDON: Scientists in Britain working on a trial cure for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have reported "remarkable" progress, after early tests on a patient with HIV failed to detect the virus in his blood.
The 44-year-old man is the first of 50 participants to complete a trial of the treatment, local media reported on Sunday (Oct 2).
Carried out by doctors and scientists from five leading British universities, the trial is testing a "kick and kill" technique designed to track down and destroy HIV-infected cells in the entire body. Currently dormant cells can evade existing treatments.
Mark Samuels, managing director of the UK's National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure, which set up the medical consortium, told The Sunday Times: “This is one of the first serious attempts at a full cure for HIV. We are exploring the real possibility of curing HIV. This is a huge challenge and it’s still early days but the progress has been remarkable.”
Based on early tests, the virus can no longer be detected in the test patient's blood. However he will reportedly have to wait a few more months before it can be confirmed that the disease is permanently gone as the virus' absence could also be down to conventional drugs which the patient has also been taking.
Speaking to The Sunday Times, the patient said: “It would be great if a cure has happened. My last blood test was a couple of weeks ago and there is no detectable virus.
“However, that could be the anti-retroviral therapies (ART), so we have to wait to be sure.”
HIV is a virus that attacks the body's immune system, specifically its T cells which help fight off infection. Over time and if left untreated, HIV can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
There is no current cure for HIV, although ART works to stop the virus replicating in the body, preventing further damage but not fully eradicating the virus in the body. Currently the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends ART for all people with HIV as soon as possible after diagnosis.
According to WHO, there were approximately 36.7 million people living with HIV at the end of 2015.