by Graham Pierrepoint
In a week where it emerged that cows were providing considerable help to researchers looking into the various ways that antibodies could be trained against HIV, at appears that a further breakthrough in South Africa has emerged – bringing the world closer to an apparent ‘cure’ for the disease. HIV has killed millions of people worldwide – as a disease which can be spread through unprotected intercourse, blood transfusion or even at birth, the spread of the virus and its potential to develop into life-threatening AIDS is still being treated as a pandemic. However, millions of people testing positive for HIV can still go on to live long and fulfilling lives – even though the risks are still prevalent, and that there are millions more dying from related illnesses and developments throughout the developing world.
It seems, however, that there is further light at the end of the tunnel. A child whose identity is protected is said to have responded fully to a brief treatment shortly after birth – and, despite having contracted the virus from their mother, the nine-year-old is thought to have been able to live healthily without the need for further medical intervention. They were provided with treatment as part of a trial – and despite evidence of HIV in their blood being high at the time of the trial, traces became virtually undetectable – a stark difference drawn here as HIV sufferers will generally need to undergo daily treatment to be able to live with the disease and to prevent it from developing into AIDS.
It is the third case where early treatment seems to have eradicated HIV from those born to mothers already affected – meaning that this latest case could hold the key to future developments in terms of long-term treatment and even vaccines. While HIV and AIDS still claim millions of lives on a regular basis throughout both the developing and developed world, researchers are pursuing a number of leads and avenues that suggest a potential ‘cure’ – or even prevention – could be achievable in our lifetime. Such a development will be incredible for the medical world – but testing will be likely to continue for some time.
The news comes as it has recently emerged that fast-acting antibodies found in cows have been able to combat HIV successfully – whereas the virus cannot be fought on existing antibodies alone in humans at this time. Such research will, of course, add up to a case for developing a vaccine or treatment of sorts in the coming years.