HIV is impossible for the human immune system to defeat on its own because the virus is able to mutate rapidly, changing its surface proteins to evade detection. However, a newly discovered antibody called “N6” has been found to neutralize up to 98% of HIV variants. N6 is effective at counteracting HIV because it can identify and attach to parts of the virus that remain consistent between mutations.
A combination vaccine and immune system stimulant has been shown to suppress HIV levels in tests on rhesus monkeys, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature. Researchers determined that this novel combination was effective at suppressing the virus to undetectable levels in a few of the subjects, without the need for antiretroviral treatments. If this approach is found to be effective in humans, it could represent the next step toward a cure for HIV/AIDS.
“Patient Zero” Exonerated from AIDS Origin Story
By genetically sequencing samples from patients who had HIV/AIDS in the 1970s, scientists have exonerated Gaétan Dugas, better known as “Patient Zero,” a French Canadian flight attendant who was presumed to have passed the virus to gay communities in the U.S. after contracting the disease during a trip overseas. Researchers sequenced the virus from eight other men infected with HIV during the 1970s, and from these genetic codes determined that the virus actually came to the U.S. from Haiti in 1970 or 1971, but went undetected for years.
New Uses for Existing Drugs
Another monkey study conducted by scientists at Emory University and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that supplementing antiretroviral therapy with vedolizumab, a drug used to treat inflammatory bowel disease, could lead to a “functional” cure for HIV/AIDS in the not-too-distant future. In most cases, HIV levels rebound within weeks of discontinuing medication, but among all eight of the monkeys who received the experimental treatment, virus levels remained undetectable for almost two years. The best part? Vedolizumab is literally already on pharmacy shelves as a treatment for ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.
This year marks the 35th anniversary of the first published reports of the phenomenon that would come to be known as HIV/AIDS. The virus has infected over 70 million people worldwide and caused more than 35 million deaths. However, with these breakthroughs and more coming just over the horizon, there is good reason to believe the global response is improving and that there may be a cure in sight.
Source: Huffington Post