This incredible breakthrough could lead to a vaccine for HIV

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Scientists are one step closer to finding a vaccine for HIV – after a groundbreaking developments regarding a new type of treatment for the virus.

New research led by UCL, the University of Oxford and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill demonstrates that the virus is in theory curable, using a “kick and kill” method.

The method would use a chemical to flush the virus out, before boosting the natural human immune system and allowing it to kill the cells responsible.

The study revolves around a 59-year-old man who had both HIV and myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.

The man’s bone marrow was removed during a transplant and replaced with stem cells to treat the myeloma, temporarily compromising his immune system and allowing the HIV to replicate.

However, when his immune system returned to normal his viral load plunged – below the levels of some of the best existing treatments.

Ravi Gupta of University College London, who co-authored the study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, said the results were promising – but that a vaccine would likely be more  than a decade away.

He told the Mail: “Our study shows that the immune system can be as powerful as the most potent combination drug cocktails.

“We’re still a long way from being able to cure HIV patients, as we still need to develop and test effective vaccines, but this study takes us one step closer by showing us what type of immune responses an effective vaccine should induce.

“If vaccines could mimic what we observed in this patient, we might be able to purge all traces of HIV in the body.”

Professor Deenan Pillay, also of UCL, said: “By measuring the strength of the immune system required to keep this virus under control in this rare individual, we have a better idea of the requirements for successful future treatment.

“We also managed to identify the specific immune cells that fought the infection.

“This is a single patient study, but nevertheless it is often the unusual patients who help us to understand the HIV disease process.”