New Scientist wrote:HIV vaccine therapy lets five people control virus without drugs
FIVE people with HIV are currently free of detectable virus – and daily drugs – thanks to a new vaccine-based therapy.
Although it is early days, one participant has been drug-free for seven months.
Most people with HIV need to take antiretroviral drugs (ART) each day to stop the virus from replicating and causing damage to their immune system. These have to be taken over a lifetime because the virus can hide away in tissues such as lymphoid and gut cells; if ART is stopped, the virus quickly re-emerges from these cells.
Although effective, ART is expensive, time-consuming and can cause nasty side effects.
While the results are significant, excitement should be tempered. Previous treatments have appeared to “cure” people with HIV only for the virus to later return. For instance, after being born to a mother with HIV, a baby in Mississippi was treated with ART for 18 months. This seemed to cure her of the virus but it returned when she was 4. HIV has also re-emerged months after ART was stopped in two men who appeared to have got rid of the virus after bone marrow transplants two years earlier.
Mothe says that this time might be different. Previous treatments involved either attacking the virus as early as possible or trying to replace the entire immune system to get rid of any dormant virus.
This time round researchers are launching a double-pronged attack: the vaccines focus on priming immune cells to rid the body of active virus as quickly as possible after infection, and the cancer drug flushes out any hidden dormant virus so it, too, can be targeted.