Have French Scientists Discovered A Cure For HIV?
On November 4, a group of French scientists brought HIV back to the forefront when they announced they had found the genetic mechanism for a “spontaneous cure” of the dreaded disease.
Other observers and experts urged caution, saying the findings were “unconvincing.”
The findings were based on a study titled “HIV Infection En Route To Endogenization: Two Cases.”
The subjects of the study were two men infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus who never developed AIDS symptoms.
According to the scientists, the virus remained in their immune cells in an inactivated state because its genetic code had been altered.
The researchers sequenced the HIV genome in samples they took from the two men who they said had experienced an "apparent spontaneous cure."
The researchers said the mutation could be linked to the enzyme, APOBEC.
According to the French team, "The work opens up therapeutic avenues for a cure, using or stimulating this enzyme."
The work was published in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection. The scientists were affiliated with France's Institute of Health and Medical Research.
Although HIV replicates by reprogramming human CD4 immune cells to become virus factories, a tiny group of people -– less than 1 percent of those infected –- have been able to keep the virus below detectable levels.
Those people are known as "elite controllers." Just how “elite controllers” suppress the virus is unknown.
The researchers suggested a process called "endogenisation" could be responsible.
In the study the team wrote, "We propose a new vision of HIV cure through integration, inactivation and potential endogenisation of a viral genome into the human genome."
'Nothing New Here'
“There’s nothing new here,” said Dr. Ertl, noting, “We have known for decades that there are these people who are elite controllers.”
Dr. Ertl said her reading of the study did not indicate that a sufficient amount of research had taken place to support the broad claims made.
Referring to the subjects of the study, Dr. Ertl said, “Would I jump to the conclusion that this person is cured? No.”
As for the study itself she said, “Would I jump to the conclusion that this opens up a whole new field of treatment? No.”
As for her own work, Dr. Ertl and her team have been working on a preventative HIV vaccine that will enter clinical trials in 2015, “provided the virus passes all the regulatory control issues,” according to Dr. Ertl.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Vaccine Research Center has provided support for Dr. Ertl’s work.
At the time of this writing, Jim Probasco had no position in any mentioned securities.
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