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  Gene therapy likely to be future of HIV fight

Gene therapy likely to be future of HIV fight

Published : Jul 18, 2016, 2:22 am IST
Updated : Jul 18, 2016, 2:22 am IST

Even as leading scientists and researchers said that eliminating the deadly HIV virus will be difficult, gene therapy is now seen as most likely to be the future method to fight the virus.

Even as leading scientists and researchers said that eliminating the deadly HIV virus will be difficult, gene therapy is now seen as most likely to be the future method to fight the virus.

“This is not going to be an easy thing. We have to do things that nature has not done. That’s not easy, but not impossible. Science in HIV and AIDS has brought us a long way in the area of treatments. If these are used properly, they can dramatically increase life expectancy and quality,” said Anthony Fauci of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, ahead of the AIDS 2016 conference.

 

He said the science of a cure was challenging, but not impossible. “gene editing” is an exciting area of research. Those involved in the search for a cure were “finally a cohort of competent and committed scientists”, Mr Fauci said.

During the two-day symposium ahead of the AIDS 2016 conference, which is expected to attract 18,000 delegates from around the World, finding a cure for HIV is going to be the focus of the discussions.

So far only one patient, Timothy Brown, is known to have been cured of HIV. He was cured with a stem cell transplant he received for acute myeloid leukemia from a donor who was immune to HIV.

However, the procedure is expensive and risky, and cannot be an option for many patients, experts explained.

 

Mr Fauci acknowledged the challenges of HIV cure research, but said recent advances in the field and the growing number of scientists working on it gave him optimism.

Sharon Lewis, co-chair of the Towards an HIV Cure Symposium, said, “It is going to be difficult and it is going to be long-term.”

Ms Lewis said the intermediate goal was to safely stop antiretroviral (ARV) therapy which had been possible in case reports over the past four years. “In the monkey models we can treat ART very similar to humans”.

The panel agreed that curing HIV positive individuals would be “easier” in those who had better immune functions. According to Steven Deeks, another co-chair of the Towards an HIV Cure Symposium, “We need more researchers and technologies to study in the field”.

 

Location: South Africa, KwaZulu-Natal, Durban