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What are the most promising treatments in development for HIV ?

Alternacare Doctor

Dr Hemant Kumar Mittal

  Bachelor of Homoeopathic Medicine & Surgery

Replied 2017-02-13 10:10:17 UTC

When we talk about HIV, the most important questions is : When a CURE will be found? Anyone who is even having the suspicion or just a baseless doubt of having the deadly infection thinks his life is hell and starts visualizing his death straightway. All this in spite of having modern treatment procedures such as ART (Anti-Retroviral Therapy). Since the 1980s various anti viral drugs have come into play to decrease the nuisance of HIV in human body and to control the disease progress, which if combined with alternative medical therapies, healthy diet, good hygiene (personal and environmental) and positive mental attitude make it manageable to such an extent that one can lead an almost normal life with a life expectancy of 10-15 years longer than in 1980s. In reality HIV infection is no more a deadly disease. ART has made it a chronic disease which is treatable but cannot be cured. But still all these are treatments only and none promises a cure. Scientists all over the world are working on it to make the CURE possible. And sooner or later it will be found. The only mystery is when? Recently, some new approaches are being investigated and some light is emerging which may lead to the cure of HIV infection. Examples include: - A first-in-class medicine intended to prevent HIV from breaking through the cell membrane; - A cell therapy that modifies a patient’s own cells in an attempt to make them resistant to HIV; and, - A therapeutic vaccine designed to induce responses from T cells that play a role in immune protection against viral infections. Below is a quick look at some of the most promising strategies that researchers believe will one day lead to a cure for the disease, which has killed 25 million people till date. 1. Therapeutic Vaccine: Unlike normal vaccines, which are designed to prevent infection, therapeutic vaccines would treat infected people by boosting their immune systems enough to combat the virus itself. About 1 in 300 people infected with HIV have the natural ability to keep the virus in check without antiretroviral treatment. Researchers have studied thousands of these so-called "elite controllers" to figure out how to translate this to normal immune systems. The goal is containment, not eradication, thus providing what is known as a "functional cure." 2. Gene Therapy: Because of a rare genetic mutation, an estimated 1 percent of people of Northern European descent are virtually immune to HIV; their T-cells lack a particular receptor (CCR5) that HIV requires to bind to and infect the cell. These are the type of cells that were successfully transplanted into Timothy Ray Brown, the so-called "Berlin patient," making him the first man to be functionally cured of the disease. Scientists are hoping to simulate this cellular immunity by turning off the CCR5 receptors of those with HIV, giving the disease nothing to latch onto. Like a therapeutic vaccine, this type of cure would not eradicate every last bit of virus in the body—but it could deprive the virus of a place to dock, negating the need for anti-retrovirals and rendering the patient non-infectious. There is another variety of receptor known as CXCR4 which is also present in T-cells. Like the CCR5 receptor, it is also important in the binding of HIV. 3. Sterilizing Cure: Despite the difficulty of locating hidden HIV reservoirs, some researchers have not given up hope of completely eradicating the virus in the body. So-called sterilizing cures would first seek to contain the virus with anti-retroviral treatment. But, as scientists are well aware, HIV continues to hide in "resting memory T-cells," having integrated its viral DNA into the cell's DNA. Antiretroviral drugs block the virus from infecting new cells, so if the reservoir of these memory T-cells could be eliminated, the virus would theoretically have nowhere left to hide. The problem is, these infected T-cells are indistinguishable from uninfected ones. So researchers are looking for ways to selectively activate the virus in these infected cells, thereby causing the cell to rupture and die. However, this method might prove more complicated if researchers find other reservoirs in the body, which could require different means of activation. 4. Killing off HIV at the Genetic Level:For patients who have already contracted the virus, one of the hardest parts of treating infection is the way HIV integrates into cellular DNA and continues to replicate in different parts of the body even when it’s not clearly detectable. That’s why some researchers have targeted the HIV genome itself through CRISPR-Cas9—exciting new technology which can be used to slice off pre-targeted bits of DNA.The DNA-cutting Cas9 enzyme is directed toward the enemy HIV genome to destroy and remove it from immune cells under this method. Although there have been early hurdles to the approach, researchers believe that more sophisticated and multi-pronged attacks on the HIV genome combined with antiretroviral therapy could be key to eradicating infection. The important point which needs consideration here is that all these methods are still lacking in ample evidence even to justify large randomised control trials. When these or some other methods will be effectively available for a functional or sterilizing cure cannot be commented upon. We should be thanking all those HIV infected individuals who presented themselves for some experiments for the greater cause without considering their own sufferings and the potential risks involved. In the meantime we should prevention being the best cure to curb the number of infected individuals by practising safe sex and pre and post exposure prophylactic methods.

 

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