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Early HIV drugs 'functionally cure about one in 10'

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14 March 2013 Last updated at 22:50 GMT Share this pageEmailPrint
Early HIV drugs 'functionally cure about one in 10

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.

They stuck to a course of antiretroviral drugs for three years, on average, but then stopped.

Most individuals who follow the same treatment will not control the infection, but there are a few of them who will”

Dr Asier Saez-Cirion
Institute Pasteur
Normally, when the drugs stop, the virus bounces back.

This has not happened in the Visconti patients. Some have been able to control HIV levels for a decade.

Dr Asier Saez-Cirion, from the Institute Pasteur in Paris, said: "Most individuals who follow the same treatment will not control the infection, but there are a few of them who will."

He said 5-15% of patients may be functionally cured, meaning they no longer needed drugs, by attacking the virus soon after infection.

"They still have HIV, it is not eradication of HIV, it is a kind of remission of the infection."

Their latest study, in the journal PLoS Pathogens, analysed what happened to the immune system of the patients.

Early treatment may limit the number of unassailable HIV hideouts that are formed. However, the researchers said it was "unclear" why only some patients were functionally cured.

Dr Andrew Freedman, a reader in infectious diseases at Cardiff University School of Medicine, said the findings were "certainly interesting".

"The presumption is that they've started treatment very early and the virus hasn't spread to so many of the long-term reservoirs and that's why it works.

"Whether they'll control it forever, or whether it'll be for a number of years and subsequently they will progress and the virus will reappear, we don't know."

However, he cautioned that many patients would be diagnosed much later than in this study.

On the same study.....

'The 10 men and four women have now been off therapy for between 4 and 9.6 years. Their plasma viral loads are below 40 copies of HIV RNA per milliliter in all but three cases, and below five copies in five patients.'

Is this the case were these infected individuals have some similarites in their immune system to the elite controlers were HIV is controlled much more efficiantly anyway? Although 1 in 10 makes them a bigger percentage that the Elite controlers we know today.

Taken at face value, that would suggest that it isn't beyond the realms of possibility that I am functionally cured; but I can't say that I would feel the least bit inclined to stop treatment in order to find out.

Another link to study:

I'm not sure why they're saying 10% - 15% of the patients may have achieved a functional cure, when the article clearly says that 70 people stopped treatment and 14 have no detectable viral load after years of stopping treatment.  That comes to exactly 20%.  What am I missing?  Anyway, it is a significant percentage for the people who started ART early.  I'm wondering if the newer generation of more powerful meds may increase this percentage, since a number of these people were taking the cocktails that were available in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


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