French researchers on Friday announced
that a small group of people living with HIV, the virus that causes
AIDS, had been “functionally cured” of the disease.
The 14 patients, 10 men and 4 women,
were treated within the first two months of infection with
antiretroviral drugs. Therapy lasted from one year to 7.6 years.
According to Asier Saez-Cirion of the
Institut Pasteur in Paris, therapy
was successfully stopped without an HIV rebound.
Previous studies have generally shown
that stopping the therapy, which keeps the virus from replicating,
leads to sharp increases in HIV virus.
But these patients have viral loads
regarded as “undetectable” – defined as less than 50 copies per
milliliter – suggesting that the patients' immune systems are
keeping the virus in check. Scientists are calling this a
Researchers warned that what are being
called “post-treatment controllers” are found in only about 15
percent of patients. That is, about 85 percent of patients treated
early with antiretroviral therapy face viral rebound if they stop
Sarah Radcliffe of the UK National AIDS
Trust called the development “exciting.”
“This is really exciting from the
perspective of it's another step along the road to a cure for HIV, in
this case a functional cure,” Radcliffe told AlJazeera English.
“Even though it is some years off in terms of practical
applications [for] people currently living with HIV.”
A similar case involved a Mississippi
baby whose mother was not diagnosed with HIV until she was in labor.
Doctors gave the baby a stronger and earlier treatment than usual
starting within 30 hours of birth, before the child had been
diagnosed as having acquired HIV from her mother.
When the mother moved, doctors lost
touch with the baby and treatment stopped. But the virus did not
who treated baby cured of HIV says she was surprised by discovery.)