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Surprising Science

How an HIV Vaccine Could Be the Cure

Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine have found that an HIV vaccine could work in conjunction with antiretroviral therapies, prepping the immune system to eliminate HIV-1 viruses.

What’s the Latest Development?

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have found that a vaccine could work in conjunction with antiretroviral medications to eliminate HIV from patients’ bodies. The virus enters a dormant or ‘latent’ state with antiretroviral treatment but quickly reactivates when the treatments are stopped. In a recent experiment, Dr. Robert F. Siliciano of Johns Hopkins found that a vaccine which boosts the immune response of host T-cells just before antiretroviral treatments are stopped helps the body to eliminate HIV once it becomes reactivated. 

What’s the Big Idea?

Antiretroviral therapies, which work by making HIV cells dormant in the body, cannot eliminate the disease, meaning patients must commit to the therapy all their life. This raises concerns over non-compliance and the treatment’s financial burden on patients, particularly among those in poor regions of the world where the disease is more prevalent to begin with. Life-long antiretroviral treatment also raises the risk that the HIV-1 virus will mutate and become resistant to treatment, says Siliciano. For this reason, a vaccine may prove essential.

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