DR Congo : New findings sparks hope in developing HIV cure

DR Congo : New findings sparks hope in developing HIV cure

A  group of researchers in the Democratic Republic of Congo  found that HIV could be eventually cured following the  discovery of  an unusual large group of HIV carriers whose bodies naturally control HIV  without the use of antiretroviral treatments. These people are referred to as “HIV elite controllers ”.

The information was released on Tuesday March 02, by Abbott, a pharmaceutical company that disclosed  that, the findings from the study could lead researchers closer to their goal of ending the HIV epidemic

 The team of scientists include Researchers from Abbott, the Johns Hopkins University, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Université Protestante au Congo.

They have discovered that the prevalence of HIV elite controllers was 2.7-4.3% in the DRC , compared to a 0.1-2% prevalence worldwide. This new research will fuel additional studies that look to understand this unique immune response.

Mary Rodgers, the study's lead scientist and head of Abbott's global viral surveillance programme, pointed out that the study found that as much as 4% of HIV carriers in the Democratic Republic of Congo were able to suppress the virus. While most people living with HIV have to take antirétrovirale medicines daily to suppress the virus and reduce their viral load.

Going by Dr Rodgers,  “if we can  understand which part of their immune response was responsible for that, it can help develop vaccines that are tailored for that kind of an immune response…It gives us a lot of hope because it means that instead of just a few people as seen in earlier studies, this shows 1000s of people in DRC who could be teaching us about how we could unlock a cure or develop better vaccines to end HIV,” she said.

This  study  could therefore serve as springboard for further research to develop a vaccine or new treatments to tackle the virus that causes AIDS.

When we first started to see the data coming in from the study we were surprised, but we were also elated,… This could mean that this is something that we can actually cure,” Dr Rodgers said.

The head of Abbott's global viral surveillance programme, said the group in DR Congo was the biggest detected in one country, between 2.7% and 4.3% . Another 1% of people living with HIV in Cameroon were also identified as controlling the virus well without medication

Details on the findings were published in EbioMedicine, part of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet. Abbott holds that this "may help researchers uncover biological trends within this population that could lead to advancements in HIV treatments and potentially vaccines,

It is worth noting that, Abbott is the first company to develop an FDA-approved test for HIV more than 30 years ago. Besides, the latest findings from Abbott researchers and partners are a continuation of virus hunting efforts that led to the identification of a new strain of HIV in 2019.

Since the beginning of the global HIV epidemic, 76 million people have been infected with HIV and 38 million people today are living with the virus.

By Fabiola k

 

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