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French Study Reports 14 Patients Live with HIV With No Medication

Update Date: Mar 15, 2013 01:16 PM EDT

Within weeks of the announcement that a baby was successfully cured of HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, a French study reported to have also "cured" 14 patients using similar techniques. These patients have lived over seven years without having the take the medications to prevent HIV from becoming AIDS. However, this "cure" comes with a 'do not try this at home' warning label as the researchers stress that if the 34 million people infected with the virus worldwide used this method, their chances of developing AIDS will multiply drastically. In the meantime, HIV experts explain that more research needs to be done.

The study labeled the 14 patients as the VISCONTI (Viro-Immunologic Sustained Control After Treatment Interruption) cohort group. The patients all live in France and rage from 34 to 66 years old. The researchers used the range of antiretroviral drugs on these adults within the first 10 weeks of the infection. The patients continued this treatment plan for three years and then they stopped all medications. The 14 adults were able to keep their HIV viral loads within controllable range for a median of 7.5 years. Although these select adults are able to manage HIV, the science behind it is still a mystery and thus, researchers do not know if all infected people will react in the same way.

"It provokes us to think. Who in the universe of people treated early can come off treatment? They showed us some clues, but it is a question that demands more science," said Myron Cohen, a U.S. HIV expert and chief of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina.

There have been cases in past of an extremely rare group of people who appear to be able to fight HIV naturally. The researchers stated that the patients in this study did not have any rare genetic characteristics that would explain how their bodies have dealt with the virus. Furthermore, researchers explained that even though this group of patients may not need medication to fight HIV, they all still contain the virus in their system, which means that the virus can worsen.

"These individuals reflect what a functional cure may represent because they have been actually controlling the infection for many years now. I think this is proof of concept that this may be achieved in individual and that this happened thank to early treatment onset," the lead researcher from the Institute Pasteur in Paris, Asier Saez-Cirion said.

However, the researchers and experts continue to remind people that this is still a small but good step toward finding a cure for HIV, and that only more research can determine whether or not this treatment approach is ideal for patients.

The study was published in the U.S. journal, PLoS Pathogens

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