Hopes for HIV Cure Revived with “Shock and Kill” Treatment

When it comes to treating HIV, there is only one obstacle that prevented doctors from eliminating the dreaded virus:  its tendency to go dormant most of the time.  Recently, a research group in Italy has developed an unusual technique, which they believe may hold the key in the discovery of a cure.

According to Dr. Enrico Garaci, president of the Italian Institute of Health, he and his team studied the HIV’s "barrier of latency," which has become a singular obstacle that prevents HIV patients from experiencing full recovery despite the advanced treatments doctors can provide.  A particularly inactive genome in HIV’s DNA is responsible for such behavior, making our body "think" that the virus is part of the human organism.

What the team has discovered is that there is a way to drive out the virus from infected cells, which gives our body’s immune system as well as drugs to have an opportunity to kill them.  This is by a combination of two drugs:  an inhibitor and a medication that prevents the former from being toxic.

Histone deacetylases has been known to block enzymes that keep the virus in its dormant state, but it only works in toxic quantities.  Dr. Savarino and his team have suggested that adding a second drug called buthionine sulfoximine "shocks" the HIV before dying while leaving the virus-free cells intact.  The approach has been dubbed as the "shock and kill treatment."

Such technique, Dr. Savarino hopes, may open new avenues to the development of new treatments that, when combined with antiretroviral therapies, intend to eliminate the HIV-infected cells from the body.  This discovery is currently in first phase of experimentation.

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