Current HIV treatments require patients to take daily medication to hold off the infection. However, recent breakthroughs in medical science may soon change that.
A Deadly Disease
Human Immunodeficiency Virus, often shortened to HIV, is a disease that made its way into the human sphere sometime around the 1920s when it crossed species from chimpanzees over to humans. It wasn’t until the 1980s that HIV awareness was significant enough that people started gathering statistics on the disease. HIV is an example of a retrovirus, which is a virus that, instead of killing a host’s cells, hijacks them and injects its DNA. When it gets into the system of a host, HIV attacks the person’s immune system.
The initial signs are flu-like and appear a few weeks after infection. After these symptoms pass, the disease remains “silent” and often shows no symptoms until it progresses to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
Out With The Old
Medicine to treat HIV has been around since the 1960s when scientists created a pill intended to treat cancer by interfering with the cells’ ability to reproduce. After failing laboratory tests, the drug, azidothymidine (AZT), was shelved until it was brought back into the picture in the 1980s during the AIDS epidemic in the United States.
Modern HIV treatments have changed little, with patients still being required to take a cocktail of virus-suppressing drugs to keep HIV from destroying the person’s immune system, leaving them vulnerable to secondary infections. A recent discovery that uses antibodies to suppress the HIV virus may make treatment less invasive while the search for a cure continues.
In With The New
HIV is a highly adaptable virus, but for some, immunotherapy using antibodies could be an option. Antibodies are our immune system’s firefighters. They are usually created by white blood cells to custom fit the receptors on the surfaces of foreign cells and disable them until phagocytes, another type of white blood cell, can come along and get rid of them. Since HIV inhibits the body’s immune system, an injection of a mix of external antibodies is used to stave off the infection for up to 15 weeks in some trials.
The introduction of the antibodies caused a rapid decline in the virus in most of the patients, though some with resistant strains of the virus showed no change. Researchers say that it’s not a treatment that will work for everyone, but it is a massive leap in the struggle to find a cure for both HIV and cancer.