Five HIV patients remain virus-free seven months after taking a new vaccine – which has been described as a ‘functional cure’ for the virus.
The treatment has allowed the patients to stop taking regular doses of antiretroviral drugs, the Spanish researchers say.
The results need to be confirmed in larger studies, the researchers say.
The ‘therapeutic vaccine’ does not actually get rid of the virus, but bolsters the immune system enough that HIV remained at undetectable levels in five out of 13 patients.
‘It’s the proof of concept that through therapeutic vaccination we can really re-educate our T cells to control the virus,’ says Dr Beatriz Mothe of the IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute in Barcelona, Spain, in an interview with New Scientist.
‘This is the first time that we see this is possible in humans.’
There have been more than 50 trials of therapeutic vaccines for HIV, but this is the first which has boosted the immune system in a ‘meaningful’ way according to Dr Steven Deeks an HIV/AIDS researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.