HIV cure shows promise in a Brazilian case
A patient’s case of a long-term remission from the HIV virus has been presented at the AIDS 2020, signifying a possible HIV cure in the future.
However, the researchers at the 23rd International AIDS Conference were careful not to raise hopes as this was just a single case of a Brazilian man in a clinical trial.
The conference also revealed research on a possible injection that had better rates of prevention against HIV.
A case of an HIV cure in Brazil?
During the conference, a case was presented from the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil of a man who may be the first person to experience long-term HIV remission.
The 34-year old subject had been treated with an antiviral drug regimen, rather than stem cell transplantation. He was among 30 participants from a clinical trial in 2016 looking into treatment approaches.
Specifically, he was one of five given a “highly intensified” antiretroviral therapy for 48 weeks. After 57 weeks, researchers found his total HIV DNA “was undetectable” and his HIV antibody test remained negative.
This novel drug strategy was reportedly designed to flush the AIDS virus out of all of its reservoirs in the body.
In their abstract, the researchers said, “Although still an isolated case, this might represent the first long-term HIV remission without myeloablation/ stem cell transplantation.”
Since the AIDS epidemic began in the 1980s, only two people have been cleared of the HIV virus long-term with the stem cell transplants, which has its own risks.
No promises on cure, say HIV researchers
The researchers admitted that their study had several limitation, the first being that this is just one person. More research is needed to to see whether there would be similar findings in the same treatment with others.
Steven Deeks, an HIV/AIDS clinician at the University of California, San Francisco, said this “should be considered largely as hypothesis-generating observations that can simulate new areas of investigation.”
Though the Brazilian man was diagnosed with HIV in 2012, it’s not clear how long he had been infected with the virus and when the infection occurred.
Ricardo Diaz of the University of Sao Paulo, who was involved in the study, said the man had been on regular antivirals for two years before the study. Diaz also admitted he doesn’t know whether the patient is cured.
According to the UNAIDS organization, there were 1.7 million new HIV diagnoses reported worldwide in 2019. Likewise, 38 million people live with HIV.
Last year, there were 690,000 deaths from AIDS. This is a decline of 39% since 2010, due to an increase in access of antiretroviral therapies and drugs that can prevent new infections.
Study on HIV prevention also promising
Another study in the conference was also presented, in which an injection of an injection of the drug cabotegravir was more effective at preventing HIV than daily oral pills.
The drug was compared to the effectiveness of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), in this case a daily oral medication Truvada.
Researchers found that the injection was 66 percent more effective at preventing HIV versus the oral medication.
The study looked at more than 4,500 cisgender men and transgender women who have sex with men in 43 sites across the world.
A press release by the sponsor of the study, the National Institutes of Health, said: “A long-acting form of PrEP could offer a less frequent, more discreet option that may be more desirable for some people.”