Scientists in Denmark say they're close to a "promising" breakthrough to cure human immunodeficiency virus, HIV.
Researchers at the Aarhus University Hospital are conducting clinical trials on humans using a "novel strategy" proven effective in laboratory tests. The news came just days after the U.S. government announced failure in a large study to develop a possible HIV vaccine.
The Danish study uses a therapy that flushes the virus from so-called reservoirs it forms within DNA cells, whereupon the body's immune system — with a little help from a vaccine — can hunt and destroy. Though the therapy appeared effective when using human skin cells in the lab, efficacy in the human body remains unproven, according to Dr. Ole Sogaard, a senior researcher in the department of infectious disease.
"The challenge will be getting the patients' immune system to recognize the virus and destroy it. This depends on the strength and sensitivity of individual immune systems," Dr. Sogaard told the media.
The small study would involve 15 people with funding from the Danish Research Council of $2.1 million, as British researchers conduct similar research through a consortium of five universities. Both studies would cure those already infected with the virus, but wouldn't prevent HIV or AIDS.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the American research study failure was "disappointing," but added that "there was important information gained."
That study of 2.504 volunteers in 19 U.S. cities began in 2009, testing a one-two vaccination involving a genetically modified vaccine and a separate, booster vaccine comprised of the same material within a disabled cold virus. The NIH announced on Thursday a halt to the trial of the vaccine known as HVTN 505.
The latest HIV research suggests a path toward success by creating power antibodies capable of attacking the virus before it ensconses itself within the host T-cells.