A 44-year-old British man may be the first person to receive a cure for HIV through a therapy developed by researchers from five universities. Scientists from the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford, King’s College London, University College London, and Imperial College London designed the two-stage therapy. Now they say the virus can no longer be detected in the man’s blood.

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The first stage of the therapy is a vaccine that assists the body in identifying cells infected with HIV. The second stage involves a novel drug, Vorinostat, which works by activating dormant T-cells. This is a crucial step; many past therapies didn’t target dormant T-cells, so a person’s body would keep producing the virus and couldn’t be fully cured of HIV. Once the dormant cells are activated, the immune system can find them. 50 people are part of the trial.

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The man is a “social care worker” who said, “I took part in the trial to help others as well as myself. It would be a massive achievement if, after all these years, something is found to cure people of this disease. The fact that I was a part of that would be incredible.”

Imperial College London consultant physician Sarah Fidler warned there is a long way to go – they plan to continue medical tests for five more years – but depending on trial results, aim to keep exploring the treatment that could be revolutionary.

It is not yet known how the other 49 people responded to the therapy, or if the virus will return in the British man, but researchers appear hopeful. National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure managing director Mark Samuels said, “This is one of the first serious attempts at a full cure for HIV. We are exploring the real possibility of curing HIV. This is a huge challenge and it’s still early days but the progress has been remarkable.”

Via The Telegraph

Images via CDC/Amanda Mills and Wikimedia Commons