A potential treatment for HIV may one day help people who are not responding to Anti-Retroviral Therapy, suggests new research published tomorrow in The Journal of Immunology. Scientists looking at monkeys with the simian form of HIV were able to reduce the virus levels in the blood to undetectable levels, by treating the monkeys with a molecule called D-1mT alongside Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART).
Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) is very similar to Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and it is used to study the condition in animal models. In both HIV and SIV, the level of virus in the blood, or 'viral load', is important because when the viral load is high, the disease progresses and it depletes the patient's immune system. This eventually leads to the onset of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), where the patient cannot fight infections which would be innocuous in healthy individuals.
Currently, the 'gold standard' treatment for HIV is Highly Active Anti-Retroviral Therapy (HAART), a cocktail of drugs that reduces the viral load by stopping the virus from replicating. HAART can increase the life expectancy of an HIV-positive patient substantially if it works well. However, the treatment is not effective for around one in ten patients, partly because some develop resistance to the drugs used in HAART. The researchers, from Imperial College London, the National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, and Innsbruck Medical University, hope their study could ultimately lead to a new treatment that will help HAART to work more effectively in these people.
In the new study, researchers gave daily doses of a modified amino acid called D-1mT to 11 rhesus macaques infected with SIV. All of the macaques had been treated with ART for at least four months. Eight of the macaques had higher viral loads (reaching up to 100,000 copies of the virus per millilitre of blood), because they were not responding completely to the treatment. However,
|Contact: Lucy Goodchild|
Imperial College London