Turning HIV On Itself: Fighting Fire With Fire

It looks as though HIV may be going down in the storybooks as yet another antagonist that has spelt out its own demise. Dr. David Harrich, of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, began what was to become a lifelong struggle against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS – a struggle of which now he has the upper hand. Since the appearance of the first cases of AIDS in the 1980s, he has been fighting its spread and worldwide detrimental effects. Now with a laboratory breakthrough in hand, this story’s ending is within reach.

They call it fighting fire with fire. HIV – human immunodeficiency virus – , normally causing AIDS, has been modified to prevent it – turning HIV against itself. A protein, under normal circumstances, helps the virus grow. Mutated, as Harrich has done, it prevents the virus from replicating or spreading. “Patients would still be infected with HIV, but it would not develop into AIDS,” tells Harrich. It’s not the HIV that causes AIDS, but that your immune system becomes run down. “This mutated protein would help to maintain a healthy immune system so patients would be able to handle normal infections.” Without an inside man opening the door, AIDS will have no way to get in.

The World Health Organization reads 32.2 million people infected with HIV, where 1.7 million died in 2011. Millions of lives in peril. The numbers crunch to a climax in the disease’s story, but turning HIV against itself may prove to be the end of AIDS.

The happy ending that these millions, and the millions to come, is tangible. “I think what people are looking for is basically a means to go on and live happy productive lives with as little intrusion as possible. The only way you can do that is one, you either eliminate the virus infection, or alternatively, you have to eliminate the disease process.” This new therapy is just that – a life improvement, a happy ending. One treatment to replace the numerous mediocre ones patients succumb today, the modified protein in HIV means lower costs and higher quality of life.

The storybook has yet to close completely on AIDS – while the research is more than promising, the clearing process is long. Animal testing is due to begin shortly, followed by administration in humans. There are still “many hurdles to clear” before we get to the end.

Sources cited:

How turing HIV against itself ‘could provide a cure for AIDS’

Australian Researches Use HIV to Prevent AIDS

Picture via: Mail Online

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