HIV Finally Has a Cure?


A recent study in macaques has proven there may finally be a cure for HIV. HIV prevention in humans could soon be as simple as getting a shot in the arm four times a year. Scientists have shown in a recent study that an antiviral drug injected into the muscle of monkeys protected them from infection for weeks thereafter. David Ho, a virologist and co-author of the study, describes the approach to HIV prevention as practical and feasible.

A common strategy used in HIV prevention is called pre-exposure prophylaxis. This approach has been implemented and yielded positive results among high-risk populations, including men who have sex with men and intravenous drug users. A study from 2010 found that amid men who have sex with men and had taken an amalgamation of tenofovir and emtricitabine daily decreased their risk of HIV contraction by more than 90 percent. Yet, for the participants who did not take the medication every day, the virus infection rate reduced by only 44 percent.

Ho and his team of researchers examined a preliminary drug called GSK744. GSK744 is an exceptionally potent cognate of dolutegravir, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for HIV treatment last year. Here is how it works:  GSK744 interferes with the enzyme that HIV uses to embed its DNA into the human genome. This prevents the AIDS virus from replicating itself, and then finally the viral DNA simply degenerates inside the cell. As a result, it is a possibility that the HIV-infected person could be cured for weeks afterwards. Hence, the person must continue to get a shot four times a year as a preventative measure.

To test the effectiveness of GSK744, Ho and his team squirted a simian-hybrid solution into the rectums of 16 macaque monkeys once a week for eight weeks. Eight of the monkeys received two injections of GSK744 during the eight-week period while the other half, which was the control group, did not. The control group macaques became infected within two weeks. However, all of the macaques who received GSK744 treatment were protected. Ho conducted a follow up experiment, which showed a single dose of GSK744 protected the monkeys between five and 10 weeks on average. Since humans metabolize the drug more slowly than macaques, Ho thinks GSK744 will remain effective in humans for up to three months and now it is time to test the drug on humans.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states they will present data from a similar study of macaque monkeys this week at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston, Massachusetts. Jonathan Mermin, director of the U.S. National Center for HIV/AIDS in Atlanta, Georgia, states the results point out that the shot is also effective in averting infections after exposure through the vagina. According to Dr. Zeda F. Rosenberg, CEO of IPM, she states women carry an unequal burden of HIV/AIDS epidemic. In the U.S. one in five women are diagnosed with the AIDS-causing virus, and the majority of women contract HIV through heterosexual sex. Around the globe, women comprise more than half of all people living with the HIV virus.

After careful research, scientists may have finally discovered a possible cure for HIV. Researchers state the drug GSK744 can be liquefied and injected into the arm four times a year. GSK744 has been tested on macaques and data shows that the monkeys lived virus-free for up to three months.

By Bridget Cunningham


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