An effective cure for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is finally here.
A technique commonly used in cancer treatment can help cure HIV infection completely, scientists say.
Dr Ekaterina Dadachova and colleagues from Albert Einstein College of Medicine of the Yeshiva University in the US found that radioimmunotherapy (RIT) was successful in destroying the HIV-infected cells without affecting or causing any harm to the healthy cells.
The method uses antibodies to transport radioactive isotopes to the deadly virus, and destroy them through radiation.
The findings bring hopes to millions of people who are affected with HIV across the whole world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly 34 million people were diagnosed with HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) in 2011 and 1.7 million died of AIDS.
Efforts to beat the sexually-transmitted disease have been going on for a long time. Antiretroviral therapy is the only method currently available to fight the deadly disease. However, the method is not capable of completely curing the infection. "There have been major strides in HIV treatment that slow disease progression, but we're still searching for a permanent cure," study leader Dr Dadachova, said in a statement. "To combat HIV, we need a method that will completely eliminate all HIV-infected cells without damaging non-infected cells."
Dr Dadachova based her findings on a previous experiment she had conducted on human cells infected with HIV. Results had showed that radioimmunotherapy (RIT) was effective in targeting and killing the infected cells.
In the new study, Dr Dadachova and her research team collected blood samples from 15 HIV patients. All of the participants had undergone highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) before the study.
During the experiment, researchers administered radioimmunotherapy to the blood samples, and found that the method was highly effective in eradicating HIV infection entirely from the samples.
Interestingly, the technique was effective in treating the HIV-infected cells in the brain and central nervous system. The findings are noteworthy because the therapy currently used to treat HIV is less effective in killing HIV in the brain, as the drugs fail to cross the blood-brain barrier that protects the brain from dangerous substances. So, failure of such therapies often lead to cognitive damage in HIV patients.
"We found that radioimmunotherapy could kill HIV-infected cells both in blood samples that received antiretroviral treatment and within the central nervous system, demonstrating RIT offers real potential for being developed into an HIV cure," Dr. Dadachova, explained.
Findings of the study were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).