Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


AIDS study sees advance for 'kick and kill' strategy

22 July 2014, 13:31

Melbourne - The elusive quest for an HIV cure received a boost at the world AIDS conference Tuesday as scientists said they had forced the virus out of a hiding place where it had lurked after being suppressed by drugs.

The experiment, carried out with six HIV-infected volunteers, is an important advance in the so-called "kick-and-kill" approach for a cure, they said.

The technique aims to force the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from its last redoubt after it is beaten back by antiretroviral drugs.

These drugs can bring HIV in the blood to below detectable levels, enabling sick patients to return almost miraculously to normal life. But the therapy has to be taken every day, is costly and carries potential side effects.

If the drugs are stopped, HIV usually rebounds within a few weeks and starts once more to infect other immune cells, exposing the body to opportunistic microbes.

So scientists, for the last three years, have focused on ways to kick HIV out of its bolthole and then kill the hideaway cells.

In a presentation at the International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark described a step forward in the first stage of this process.

Six patients who were on antiretrovirals took an anti-cancer drug called romidepsin, which prompted virus production in HIV-infected cells to crank up to between 2.1 and 3.9 times above normal. In five patients, the level of virus in the blood increased to measurable levels, an important threshold.

The pilot study sought only to see if it was possible to flush out the hiding virus and make it detectable.

Further work will show whether all the remaining virus was exposed this way. And a way has to be found to destroy the holdout cells where HIV reproduces after waking up.

"We have now shown that we can activate a hibernating virus with romidepsin and that the activated virus moves into the bloodstream in large amounts," said lead researcher Ole Schmeltz Sogaard.

"This is a step in the right direction but there is a long way to go and many obstacles to overcome before we can start talking about a cure against HIV."

- HIV 'fingerprint' -

Seen through a microscope, the reactivated virus leaves a trace on the outside of infected CD4 immune cells as it returns to the bloodstream, he said.

The hope is that this tiny smear, rather like a fingerprint at a crime scene, can be spotted by so-called killer T-cells, the immune system's heavy armour.

The researchers now hope to combine romidepsin to wake up the dormant HIV and then use a vaccine called vacc-4x to prime T-cells to recognise and then destroy the bolthole.

The six volunteers did not suffer any major side effects from romidepsin, apart from known complaints such as passing fatigue and nausea, and the lymphoma drug did not interfere with their antiretrovirals.

Cure research suffered a big disappointment in the run-up to the 2014 AIDS forum with the news that a strategic prong -- delivering a powerful dose of antiretrovirals at a very early stage of infection -- is unlikely to work.

Hopes had centred on an American infant known as "the Mississippi Baby", who was born with HIV. She was given drugs immediately at birth and the treatment continued for 18 months, when physicians lost track of her.

When doctors next checked her five months later, they found no sign of the virus. Now, though, it has been found that after the child had lived for 27 months without HIV and drugs, the virus has bounced back.

Research on lab monkeys published on Sunday in the journal Nature suggests HIV's haven, formally called the reservoir, is established within days of infection.

On Monday, scientists at Temple University in Philadelphia reported using an enzyme to snip out HIV genes from infected human cells in a lab dish, a useful but still very early contribution towards a cure.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Submitted by
Wilson Ochieng
DP Ruto accuses Raila of selling ...

DP Wiliam Ruto has castigated Raila Odinga for seeking western support to fund his 2017 election bid. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Peter Kenneth announces Uhuru 201...

Peter Kenneth has announced that he will support President Uhuru Kenyatta in the 2017 elections. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilon Ochieng
Labour Party to dump both Jubilee...

The Labour Party of Kenya is likely to avoid supportoing both the CORD and Jubilee factions during the 2017 General Elections. Read more...

Submitted by
William Korir
Ukambani MP quits Jubilee, to run...

An Ukambani MP has quit the Jubilee Party, citing voter apathy as his reason behind leaving the ruling coalition. Read more...

Submitted by
Victor Tinto
Government launches probe into Po...

The government has launched an inquiry into the circumstances that could have led to two National Police Service helicopter accidents in August and September this year. Read more...

Submitted by
Wilwon Ochieng
Deputy Governor's ally found with...

The EACC has recovered KES 2 million in fake currency from a close ally of Deputy Governor for Tharaka Nithi Eliud Mati. Read more...