Scientists may have found a way to suppress an HIV-like infection in monkeys, without the need for ongoing drug therapy. The researchers added antibody therapy to standard drug treatment given to macaque monkeys infected with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). After three months, the animals were taken off the drugs, but their viral levels remained low to undetectable — for close to two years.
The drug has already been taken by thousands of people for intestinal conditions and appears to control HIV in monkeys. This has gotten the director of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr Anthony Fauci, excited.
Fauci hopped on a plane to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to personally tell Japan’s Takeda Pharmaceutical Co’s US representatives that their drug may offer a dramatic advance in the fight against AIDS.
Takeda’s drug suppressed the virus to undetectable levels in eight monkeys, some for two years. The findings raise hopes for a so-called ‘functional cure’ – a treatment that puts the disease in sustained remission.
Experts stressed that the animal findings need to be viewed with caution, and that many questions remain. Although, they were also hopeful this could lead to a therapy that frees at least some people from their HIV drug regimens.
The drug is one of several promising ideas heading into early-stage human trials, all seeking to help patients control the virus that causes AIDS for extended periods without daily antiretroviral therapy.