But in the latest report presented this month at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston, researchers revealed the strongest evidence yet that these latent viruses can be activated and eliminated, at least in animals. In a study involving a form of HIV that infects monkeys, Dr. Dan Barouch and his colleagues at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School showed that a drug that stimulates the immune system and activates the dormant HIV, combined with a powerful antibody that can neutralize the HIV-infected cells, prevented HIV from surging back in five of 11 animals, six months after they stopped taking ARVs. In the monkeys whose HIV did return, the virus levels were 100 times lower than they were in animals that were not treated at all.
I think our data raises the possibility that an intervention achieving a functional cure is possible,” says Barouch. “It shows a level of potential efficacy, at least in animals, that to the best of my knowledge hasn’t been seen before. [Time article]