A study on mice with an HIV-like infection found that boosting their immune systems cured them of the disease.
Scientists at the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Australia said their findings could help develop drugs to help people rid their bodies of infections such as HIV, hepatitis B and C and tuberculosis.
In mice infected with the HIV-like illness, they looked at the role of IL-7, a naturally-occurring immune hormone.
In the face of an infection such as HIV, a gene called SOCS-3 halts the immune system.
However, it was found that boosting the levels of IL-7 switched off the gene and allowed the mice to gradually fight the illness.
According to the Daily Mail, Dr Marc Pellegrini, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, said: “Viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C overwhelm the immune system, leading to establishment of chronic infections that are lifelong and incurable.
“Despite tremendous efforts, long-lived immune responses for some of these viruses are ineffective, because the body is so overrun by virus that the immune system just give up trying to battle the infection.
“Some people have coined the phrase ‘immune exhaustion’ to explain the phenomenon.
“Our approach is to discover some of the mechanisms that cause this immune exhaustion, and manipulate host genes to see if we can boost the natural immune response in order to beat infection.”
The study was published in the journal Cell today.