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HIV can be cured in mice, study finds

Reiss Smith September 11, 2019
A gloved hand holding a lab mouse

Scientists eradicated HIV from nine infected mice. (Getty)

Scientist have found “proof of concept” that HIV can be eliminated after a series of treatments “functionally cured” mice carrying the virus.

Researchers from from Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine and the University of Nebraska Medical Center developed a two-pronged approach to treating HIV.

The test subjects were given a “long-acting slow-effective release” form of antiretroviral therapy (LASER ART).

Like the antiretroviral drugs currently given to people living with HIV, this suppressed the replication of the virus in the affected mice.

However as the scientists noted, this alone cannot cure HIV “no matter how successful the drugs may prove to be at restricting viral infection.”

In conjunction with the LASER ART treatment, researchers developed a gene editing tool to extract the remaining virus.

Scientists eradicated HIV from nine mice

By the end of the study, published in Nature Communications, HIV had been eliminated from nine out of 23 mice.

The results are a first step towards eradicating HIV, but the study’s co-author Kamel Khalili warned that a cure could a long way off.

“We’re landing on the moon,” he told CNN. “It doesn’t mean you made it to Mars yet.”

We’re landing on the moon. It doesn’t mean you made it to Mars yet.

To confirm that the virus had been eradicated took several years, with co-author Howard Gendelman explaining that the team had to examine every “nook and cranny” of the mice’s tissue.

Khalili’s team has been recreating the study with primates, and should know within one year if they have been successful.

Clinical trials could then follow in summer 2020.

The study comes shortly after it was announced that new HIV diagnoses in England have fallen by almost one-third, putting them at their lowest level since 2000.

Public health minister Jo Churchill said the news puts the UK on target to eradicate new transmissions by 2030 as per a global UN target, however charities have warned that more must be done.

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