‘Functional Cure’ for HIV May Work for Patients Diagnosed Early

| by Sarah Fruchtnicht
HIV cured with early diagnosis and treatment.HIV cured with early diagnosis and treatment.

A “functional cure” for HIV can help patients diagnosed in the first 10 weeks of infection, according to new research. However, the treatment is only successful in 1 in 10 patients.

Scientists in France studied 14 patients in the first 10 weeks of HIV infection. They were treated for three years and then medication was stopped. The virus typically rebounds when medication is ended, but in these patients it did not.

This research, published in PLoS Pathogens, comes on the heels of news that a baby girl in Mississippi was effectively cured of HIV after receiving very early treatment.

Unfortunately, many patients don’t know they are infected in the first 10 weeks and may not know until the virus, which causes AIDS, had fully taken hold.

Professor at Necker Hospital and University Paris Descartes Christine Rouzioux, who was a member of the initial team who identified HIV 30 years ago, said the results showed the number of infected cells circulating in the blood kept falling even after treatment ended.

“Early treatment in these patients may have limited the establishment of viral reservoirs, the extent of viral mutations, and preserved immune responses. A combination of those may contribute to control infection in post-treatment controllers,” Rouzioux said.

“The shrinking of viral reservoirs…closely matches the definition of ‘functional’ cure,” she added.

A functional cure means the virus is reduced to such low levels that it is kept in check, ruling out AIDS, without treatment. However, the virus is still detectable in the body.

There are 34 million people with HIV in the world. Many of them will take anti-AIDS drugs or “antiretroviral therapy” for their entire lives. These drugs keep the virus in check, but have a great number of side effects and a high cost impact on healthcare.

Worldwide the number of people with newly infected HIV is falling. In 2011 the number of new infections was 20 percent lower than in 2001, according to the United National AIDS Programme (UNAIDS). AIDS deaths are down from 2.3 million in 2005 to 1.7 million in 2011.

Source: Daily Mail