Australian scientists have said they have a made a breakthrough in the fight against AIDS.
The Queensland Institute of Medical Research say they have discovered how to modify a protein in HIV, so instead of replicating, it protects against the infection.
Associate Professor David Harrich says while it cannot cure HIV, the modified protein has protected human cells from AIDS in laboratory tests.
‘I consider that this is fighting fire with fire,’ Harrich said.
‘What we’ve actually done is taken a normal virus protein that the virus needs to grow, and we’ve changed this protein, so that instead of assisting the virus, it actually impedes virus replication and does it quite strongly.’
In theory, this would help keep the HIV at bay and allow the immune system to function normally.
Harrich says while patients would still be HIV-positive, ‘this therapy is potentially a cure for AIDS.’
‘So this protein present in immune cells would help to maintain a healthy immune system so patients can handle normal infections,’ he said.
If clinical trials are successful, one treatment could be effective enough to replace the multiple therapies they currently need.
The Australian professor says animal trials are due to start this year and early indications are positive.
‘This particular study is going to have some hurdles to jump through, but so far every test that we have put this protein through has passed with flying colors,’ he said.
Harrich said he hopes the new treatment has the potential to make big improvements in the quality of life for those with HIV.
‘I think what people are looking for is basically a means to go on and live happy and productive lives with as little intrusion as possible,’ he said.
‘You either have to eliminate the virus infection or alternatively you have to eliminate the disease process and that’s what this could do, potentially for a very long time.’
In October last year, scientists found two South African women who were able to create antibodies that killed 88 known strains of HIV. This has given scientists hope there could be a possible vaccine for the virus.
At the end of 2010, it was estimated 34 million people are living with HIV and AIDS worldwide.