Current treatments for HIV patients only suppress the replication of the HIV virus and must be taken for the rest of a patient’s life. Now, a new approach developed by scientists from Belgium not only stops the virus from multiplying, it also prevents the virus from attaching in our DNA, allowing the HIV patients to stop taking their medications at least temporarily.
The research team from the University of Leuven (Katholieke Universiteit Leuven or KU Leuven) explains that using the inhibitors called LEDGINs blocks the HIV virus from using the cellular protein LEDGF to hook itself in our DNA. This integration in our genetic material makes it impossible for current HIV antiviral treatments to completely eliminate the virus from our body.
Apparently, the findings could pave the way for a cure for the sexually transmitted disease. The LEDGINs were developed in 2010 but further investigations are still needed, the researchers assert, so it may take more years to find a cure.
“This discovery paves the way for new clinical studies with LEDGINs,” adds Zeger Debyser, a professor at KU Leuven. “We don’t know whether this approach will lead to a final cure for HIV, but even a scenario that allows patients to stop their medication for a while is an important step in the right direction … We don’t want to give anyone false hope. Our discovery is based on cell cultures. The findings still need to be tested in mice and in clinical studies,” insists Debyser. “That’s why a potential treatment based on the discovery is still years in the future. But now, we already know the direction of our future research.”
The World Health Organisation states that there are 37 million people living with HIV worldwide but only 54 percent know their status. In 2015, nearly 16 million HIV patients received the antiretroviral therapy.