A British man could become the first person in the world to be cured of HIV using a new therapy designed by scientists from leading UK universities.
The 44-year-old is one of 50 people currently trialling a treatment which targets the disease.
Scientists told The Sunday Times that presently the virus is completely undetectable in the man’s blood and if it remains that way it will be the first complete cure.
“This is one of the first serious attempts at a full cure for HIV,” said Mark Samuels, managing director of the National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure. “We are exploring the real possibility of curing HIV.”
HIV is so difficult to treat because it targets the immune system, splicing itself into the DNA of T-cells so that they not only ignore the disease, but turn into viral factories that reproduce the virus.
Current treatments, called anti-retroviral therapies, cannot spot dormant infected T-cells.
The new therapy works in two stages. Firstly, a vaccine helps the body recognise the HIV-infected cells so it can clear them out.
Secondly, a new drug called Vorinostat activates the dormant T-cells so they can be spotted by the immune system.
More than 100000 people in Britain are living with HIV and 37million areinfected worldwide.
The first unidentified patient, a social care worker in London, said: “It would be great if a cure has happened. My last blood test was a couple of weeks ago and there is no detectable virus.
“I took part in the trial to help others as well as myself. It would be a massive achievement if after all these years something is found to cure people of this disease. The fact that I was a part of that would be incredible.”
Professor Sarah Fidler, a consultant physician at Imperial College London, added: “This therapy is specifically designed to clear the body of all HIV viruses, including dormant ones.
“It has worked in the laboratory and there is good evidence it will work in humans too, but we must stress we are still a long way from any actual therapy,” Fidler said.