MORE than two decades after the Grim Reaper came knocking, Australian scientists believe they are on the verge of curing HIV.
In a world-first trial, scientists at Melbourne's Alfred Hospital and Monash University have used a cancer drug to "wake up" dormant HIV from it's genetic hiding places, which make it so difficult to treat.
So far, twenty people have taken part in the trial and the Alfred's Director of Infectious Diseases, Professor Sharon Lewin said the results were "very promising".
"We know that the virus can "hide" in cells and remain out of reach from conventional HIV therapies and the immune system," Professor Lewin said.
"Anti-HIV drugs are unable to eradicate the virus because it burrows deeply into the DNA of immune cells, where it gets stuck and goes to sleep.
"Anti-HIV drugs are very effective in keeping people healthy but they can't eliminate a virus that is sleeping.
"We wanted to see if we could wake the virus up - and using vorinostat we have successfully done that- now we need to work out how to get rid of the infected cell."
The research was presented at the 20th annual conference on retrovirus and opportunistic infections in Atlanta on Monday.
At the same conference, US scientists revealed a baby, born with HIV, been cured of the virus.
Using a cocktail of three standard HIV-fighting drugs, doctors in Mississippi were able to reverse the infection 30 hours after birth.
Dr Deborah Persaud from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore told the conference that while more testing would need to be done, the results proved HIV could be potentially curable in infants.
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