19 july 2010
An AIDS cure will be found in the next five to 10 years, claims an internationally renowned Australian expert.
But the real challenge would be making it accessible, said Sharon Lewin, the head of the infectious diseases unit at The Alfred Hospital in Melbourne.
Lewin, whose research has focused on how to kill the AIDS virus when it is dormant in the body, said the most promising approach would be to wake up the “sleeping virus” and then kill it.
And she believed a cure would be found within five to 10 years.
“We will have a high-tech solution but then we will need to make it simple enough and cheap enough to be delivered to a lot of people,”Stuff.co.nz quoted her as saying.
“The main reason we can’t cure HIV is because it goes into a hiding spot in the body and it goes to sleep while we are treating the patient with drugs, but when we stop the drugs the virus wakes up. I think the most promising approach is using drugs that can wake up the sleeping virus and then kill it,”he added.
It had been difficult to treat the dormant virus because it integrated into the genetic code of its host’s cells and so was almost impossible to attack.
“This is a very smart virus ... From the outside there is no way to tell the difference between a cell that has the virus and one that doesn’t.
“We are looking at how the virus gets into the cells, why it stays asleep, and how we can wake it up again,”she added.
Other promising approaches included using gene therapy to manipulate patients’ cells to make them resistant to HIV, finding more efficient ways to use the anti–retroviral drugs that treat HIV, or finding ways of boosting the immune system of patients with AIDS.
Sharon was speaking before the AIDS 2010 conference in Vienna.
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