Michael Oduor with New Scientist
Five HIV patients are currently free from detectable virus after undergoing a vaccine therapy for seven months, according to a study published in New Scientist.
The research required the patients to stop taking regular antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in order to be introduced to a new vaccine that will allow their body immune system control the virus.
The study took in 24 patients diagnosed with HIV in 2014. They were given two vaccines developed by Tomas Hanke and his colleagues at the University of Oxford. They were also given ART, then monitored to see whether the vaccines induced a strong immune response.
In 2017, 15 of them received a booster doze of one of the vaccines followed by three doses of romidepsin – a cancer drug that has shown potential for flushing HIV out of hiding.
The virus rapidly bounced back in 10 of the participants while 5 no longer needed the drugs because their immune systems could suppress the virus unaided.
If the treatment were to prove successful, the savings could be huge. Costs of ART in low to middle-income countries hit $19 billion in 2015 – despite having only reached half of the 36.7 million people infected with HIV.
Since the epidermic erupted, over 35 million people have died while 36.7 million people are currently living with the virus globally.