Researchers Begin Developing a New Combination Treatment for HIV

A team of scientists has found that the combination of an immune stimulant and an experimental vaccine reduced the viral load of HIV in monkeys. The findings may lead to the development of a more effective treatment for HIV. The details are in a paper that was just published in the journal Nature.

The human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, is transmitted through sexual contact and over 1.2 million Americans are currently infected. The virus eventually progresses to AIDS and there’s no cure though treatments can prevent many of the symptoms. In areas without access to proper medical care, the disease kills more than a million people each year, leading to its classification as a pandemic. A vaccine or cure has the potential to save many lives worldwide.

Researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center collaborated with scientists from a number of other organizations, including the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and Janssen Vaccines & Prevention B.V. The team investigated alternative treatments to antiretroviral medications, the drugs currently used to treat HIV. While antiretroviral drugs work, they simply mask symptoms without destroying the virus.

The research team spent two years tracking the viral loads of 36 SIV-infected rhesus monkeys. SIV stands for the simian immunodeficiency virus, a disease that behaves similarly to HIV but affects nonhuman primates. The team tried two experimental vaccines. Some groups received the vaccine in combination with an immune stimulant, a drug that boosts the immune system.

The researchers found that the combination of the Ad26/MVA vaccination and an immune stimulant significantly reduced the viral load in the treated monkeys. The immune system became more active and the virus was completely eliminated in three out of the nine monkeys that received the combination treatment.

The Ad26/MVA vaccine shows great promise in the treatment of HIV when combined with immune stimulants. Although this treatment is still in the very early testing stages, the research team believes their findings could eventually lead to a cure for HIV.

REFERENCE

Borducchi et al. New therapeutic vaccine approach holds promise for HIV remission. Nature (2016).

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