British HIV cure ‘breakthrough’ is premature

By: Muza Gondwe
Muza Gondwe

Muza Gondwe

A  British newspaper reported that British scientists are on “the brink of an HIV cure” after HIV had become undetectable in the blood of one man taking part in the River study, a trial of an intensive treatment regimen designed to test whether it is possible to reduce levels of HIV-infected cells in the bodies of people recently infected with HIV. The hope is that the treatment may eradicate HIV infection altogether.

The study is still in its early stages and will not be able to describe participants as ‘cured’ until extensive follow-up has taken place.

The River study stands for Research in Viral Eradication of HIV Reservoirs. The trial is being conducted by a number of British universities.

The study is recruiting people who were infected with HIV within the previous six months—so—called ‘primary infection’. HIV may have infected fewer cells in the body at this time, so in theory it might be easier to eradicate HIV in this group of people, or to stop antiretroviral therapy without causing a rebound in HIV levels.

Participants in the study receive a four-drug combination of antiretrovirals that includes raltegravir, which is included because it can reduce HIV levels in the blood more quickly than other antiretrovirals. Aggressive antiretroviral treatment started during primary infection has been shown to permit treatment to be stopped altogether, without viral rebound, in around 15 percent of people in a French cohort study called Visconti.

After several weeks participants are randomly assigned to receive either a four-drug ARV treatment or ARVs plus a vaccination and a drug that is designed to activate cells that are infected so that they can be killed by the immune system.

The study is designed to test whether the approach does indeed reduce levels of HIV DNA in cells, or even eradicates the infection altogether.

The River study aims to recruit 52 people diagnosed with primary HIV infection in the UK.

The newspaper report that one participant was “cured” was premature, the participant is still on ARVs and prolonged follow-up is required. The earliest the results will be out will be in 2018.—Additional information sourced from



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