HIV Functional Cure That Controls Virus, Destroys Infected Cells In Mice Created by Scientists

Scientists in China believe they have found a functional cure to HIV that can control the virus and eliminate infected cells in the bodies of HIV position mice. If the same results translate to humans, it could serve as an effective way to both protect from the virus and treat those already infected.

A team of researchers, led by Chen Zhiwei from Hong Kong University, revealed their latest research into HIV treatment in a study published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, Reuters reported. The team gave mice a new type of antibody that controlled levels of HIV in their bodies.

Although it did not completely eliminate the virus, it kept the levels so low that the mice were considered functionally cured. The antibody works similarly to antiretroviral medications that many HIV positive individuals currently take, in that it keeps viral numbers at a safe low level. However, unlike these medications, which patients must take on a daily basis or risk their viral load increasing to dangerous levels, the antibody would be need to be administered far less frequently.

The antibody was also able to eliminate many HIV infected cells, further fighting the infection inside a patient's body.

An Indian nurse carries out a test for HIV/AIDS during an event to mark International Condom Day in New Delhi on February 13, 2018. Sajjad Hussain/AFP/Getty Images

A patient's viral load measures the amount of HIV in their body and is a good indication of their health. A higher viral count increases an individual's risk of becoming ill due to their infection. For example, going past a certain viral can cause an HIV positive patient to develop AIDs, Healthline reported.

A functional cure refers to a treatment that can keep viral levels in a patient so low that they are virtually undetectable. This also means that the patient's ability to pass on the virus to another individual is significantly decreased.

There have been many attempts to create a functional cure for HIV, but thus far none of these have yet to become available to the public.

The researchers predict they'll take the antibody to human trials within three to four years. However, it's hard to estimate how long it would take for this drug to become available to the public, even with continuous positive results.

"Governments are being very slow to implement programmes here," Andrew Chidgey, chief executive of the charity group AIDS Concern in Hong Kong told Reuters. "So just because a treatment becomes available, doesn't mean that people will get it, or that it will have an impact."