Scientists recently made a huge stride toward finding a cure for HIV. A team of researchers from five UK universities reported the apparent disappearance of the virus from the blood of a trial subject. According to The Telegraph, the 44-year-old British man may be the first person fully cured of the disease using the new treatment.

The treatments currently available target active T-cells infected with HIV but do nothing to treat dormant T-cells. The team of scientists are currently running a trial of a different kind of therapy meant to tackle HIV in its dormant state. It goes a few steps beyond existing anti-retroviral therapies (ART) by training the body’s immune system to recognize HIV with a vaccine and awakening dormant T-cells so they’re easier to eradicate.

The therapy is currently being administered to 50 volunteers, and so far it seems to have been fully effective in at least one subject. The virus is no longer detectable in the blood of the unnamed patient. This might be due to the regular drugs he’s taking, but if the dormant cells are completely gone as well then the case represents the trial’s first full cure.

HIV has been eliminated from one patient before using a rather roundabout method: In 2008, Timothy Brown received a stem cell transplant from someone with a natural immunity to the disease and was effectively cured. If this new treatment is as promising as it looks, it could offer a more practical solution to the 2.1 million people infected with HIV each year. Researchers plan to move forward with medical tests for the next five years and may eventually look into the treatment as a replacement for current therapies.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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