Experimental Trial: Male Patient Who Once Tested Positive for HIV Now Has No Detectable Virus in Blood Tests
In an interview last week with the British Times, scientists unveiled that HIV has been successfully treated in an individual.1 As part of an experimental trial, a 44-year old male patient who has been HIV positive, has confirming blood tests with no detectable virus. The treatment is still in its infancy, but is showing great progress and promise.
Current HIV Treatment
The current HIV treatment incorporates a variety of antiretroviral medications aimed at suppressing viral growth. The interesting thing about antiretroviral therapy (ART) is that it has a hard time killing cells in which the virus lay dormant. These dormant cells still reawaken and infect the patient. The new, experimental therapy is specifically designed to clear the body of all HIV viruses, even the ones that are dormant.
New Therapy Treatment
The new therapy is broken into 2 different components that work together. The first stage, patients are treated with a vaccine that primes the body to recognize HIV-infected cells. This is important, because the immune system actually helps the virus reproduce. The second stage, after the vaccine is given, a drug called Vorinostat is taken which activates dormant cells so that they are sensed by the immune system and destroyed.
Promising Study Offers Glimpse of a Cure in the Near Future
There are 50 participants in the current experimental trial. A drop in the bucket compared to the 35 million living with HIV globally. However, the study shows promise at this time, and may be the first solid glimpse at a cure to come. The concern at this point is that there may still be dormant T cells hiding in the treated patients, so the therapy cannot be said to cure HIV yet, but it's certainly a step in the right direction. The participants in the trial will be followed and tested for the next 5 years, and recommended to stop taking ART in the future, depending on the test results.
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Node Smith, ND, is a naturopathic physician in Portland, OR and associate editor for NDNR. He has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine among the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend camp-out where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Four years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.