Aids research findings excites scientists


However, distinguished scientist. Professor Salim Abdool Karim, who along with his wife, Professor Quarraisha Abdool Karim, have won several international accolades for their Aids research, described the path to a cure for Aids as long and complicated.

The findings from a joint study by the University of Cape Town, the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa CAPRISA in Durban and the University of North Carolina has been published in the prestigious journal Science Translational Medicine. With antiretroviral treatment, HIV becomes undetectable in the blood but it remains deep within certain cells known as viral reservoir where treatment cannot reach these viruses known as latent viruses.

People living with HIV have to take antiretroviral treatment for life because strains of HIV hidden in the long lived, viral reservoirs return quickly into their blood if antiretroviral treatment is stopped, even briefly. Until now, this viral reservoir was believed to form continuously over many years, starting from the onset of infection.

The new study investigated the women on antiretroviral treatment and the good news is that they have had no detectable virus for at least four years. These women had been studied over the last 10 15 years as part of the CAPR ISA 002 cohort study in KwaZulu Natal. The joint SA US team of researchers found, surprisingly, that most of the viral strains in the reservoir were those circulating in the blood at the time of antiretroviral treatment.

This new information creates the opportunity to develop new approaches to curing HIV as this discovery indicates that the reservoir could be changed markedly through additional interventions at the time of antiretroviral treatment initiation. The viral reservoir is currently the biggest barrier to a cure for HIV. Karim is the director of CAPR ISA and co lead investigator of the CAPR ISA Professor Salim Abdool Karim 002 study. The hidden viruses that evade antiretroviral treatment and the body's immune response are key to developing a cure. This study's findings take us just one more small step forward in the search for a cure for Aids," said Karim.

Dr Melissa Rose Abrahams. a University of Cape Town researcher and primary author of the findings said, An Aids cure or a state of disease control in the absence of treatment is badly needed. Our finding is important not only because it informs new strategies and interventions to restrict the latent viruses in the viral reservoir, but also because it was identified in a key population African women who are among the worst affected in the globe HIV epidemic." Professor Ronald Swanstrom of the UNC School of Medicine suggested that if the reservoir forming process is; better understood, timeous: intervention will play a key role.

UNAIDS estimated in 2018 that about 38m people are living with HIV. The report said 22m peope are on life long antiretroviral treatment and that Aids has claimed the lives of 1m people.

Publication: Weekly Gazette (South Coast)

28 October 2019