CANBERRA, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- A breakthrough that could lead to a potential cure for AIDS has been developed by Australian scientists, a latest study from Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) revealed on Wednesday.
According to a statement from QIMR, Associate Professor David Harrich, from QIMR's Molecular Virology Laboratory, has determined how to modify a protein in the virus, so that it instead provides strong, lasting protection from infection.
Although this approach, published in the journal Human Gene Therapy, was not a cure for HIV, Harrich said it would ensure the virus remains dormant. This protein present in immune cells would help to maintain a healthy immune system so patients can handle normal infections.
"I consider that this is fighting fire with fire," he said. " What we've actually done is we've taken a normal virus protein that the virus needs to grow, and we've changed this protein, so that instead of assisting the virus, it actually impedes virus replication and does it quite strongly."
"This therapy is potentially a cure for AIDS," he said. "So it' s not a cure for HIV infection, but it potentially could end the disease."
More than 30,000 people have been diagnosed with HIV in Australia. Harrich said animal trials are due to start this year and early indications are positive. If clinical trials are successful, one treatment could be effective enough to replace the multiple therapies they currently need.
He also said the new treatment has the potential to make big improvements in the quality of life for those carrying HIV.
"Drug therapy targets individual enzymes or proteins and they have one drug, one protein," Associate Professor Harrich said. " They have to take two or three drugs, so this would be a single agent that essentially has the same effect."
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