A Cocktail of HIV Cures

A few new developments regarding the potential for an HIV cure are sparking a round excitement. There are several manners in which an HIV cure--as opposed to a preventative vaccine--is being pursued. 

The first is in a manner such as with The Berlin Patient, a man who developed leukemia in the setting of HIV and underwent a bone marrow transplant with cells lacking the HIV co-receptor CCR5. This is the subject of a new book I'm eager to read. 

The other avenue is that taken by the Mississippi baby. In this case, a child born to an HIV positive mother--who did not receive prophylactic treatment--was immediately placed on antiretroviral therapy for a period of time. That treatment has since stopped and no detectable virus has been found in the child's blood. A similar procedure was recently reported in Long Beach. A larger trial is being planned. Similar results have been shown in adults in the Visconti cohort, albeit a small amount of viral material presents. 

The final approach is novel and involves using genetic engineering to remove the CCR5 co-receptor from a person's T-cells and then re-infusing them. Such infusions of T cells lacking this receptor were found to die much less slowly than their HIV-vulnerable counterparts, in the absence of treatment, and also to be safe.

Taken as a whole, the potential success of curative treatments and an efficacious vaccine have the potential to change the dynamics between HIV and the human race.