Catalan researchers isolate and control AIDS virus for the first time
Barcelona (CNA).- Some patients infected with AIDS have been able to control the virus for long periods of time without having to take anti-retroviral drugs. This is what a clinical trial carried out at three hospitals in the Barcelona area proved at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), the most important in the sector, held this Thursday in Seattle. The research, which is still ongoing, combines a vaccine developed by researchers at Oxford University and MVA HIVconsv with the Romidespina drug. Thanks to this method, 38.5% of the participants achieved control of the virus for 5, 13, 17, 20 and 27 weeks respectively. The research is directed by the IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute, a leading centre for research into the eradication of HIV/AIDS and related diseases, and the Fight AIDS Foundation, a non-profit organisation that is dedicated to healthcare, research and education in the field of HIV/AIDS.
“This is the first time ever that this combination has proved to control the virus for more than 8 weeks, which was the maximum time until the present day”, explained Fight AIDS Foundation founder and HIV/AIDS prominent figure Doctor Bonaventura Clotet.
When a person interrupts his retro-viral treatment, the in-blood level of the HIV/AIDS virus tends to increase during the first four weeks. In 5 of the 13 patients whom participated in the clinical trial a small sporadic rise in the virus has been registered, but they shortly decreased. “On one hand we achieved debilitation of the virus and on the other we have reinforced the patients’ immune system, so that it can effectively react to the virus’ attempts to rise”, explained IrsiCaixa associated researcher, Beatriz Mothe and one of the trial’s coordinators.
“This is the first time that a significant number of participants in a clinical trial become viral controllers after a therapeutic intervention, whether through a vaccine or any other immunotherapy”, added Mothe who pointed out that none of them have however been “cured”. “Now we have to figure out how do we extend this known strategy’s effectiveness to all patients; whether it is by using better vaccines, repeating cycles with inferior doses of reflationary drugs or with other products which are currently being developed”, pointed out Doctor José Moltó, from the Fight AIDS Foundation.
The viral reservoir is made of cells infected by AIDS which remain latent within the organism. Due to its inactivity, these cells can’t be detected by the immune system. The reservoir explains why the treatment can never be stopped. Thus, the only way to destroy it is by ‘awakening’ the virus to detect where it can be hidden and destroy the infected cells through an effective immunity response, which is known as the ‘kick&kill’ strategy.
The trial proves the importance of the infection’s early detection and suggest that starting the treatment during the first weeks after the infection can contribute to decreasing the size of the viral reservoir and maintain a strong and functional immunity reaction, allowing a better response to the vaccine.
International leading centres in HIV/AIDS research
The study is being carried out at Hospital Germans Trias i Pujol and Hospital Clínic - IDIBAPS, two of the leading centres in AIDS research internationally and the communitarian centre BCN Checkpoint.
The research is directed byBarcelona and Badalona and is directed by the IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute, a leading centre for research into the eradication of HIV/AIDS and related diseases, and the Fight AIDS Foundation, a non-profit organisation that is dedicated to healthcare, research and education in the field of HIV/AIDS, created by Doctor Bonaventura Clotet in 1992.