With the latest advances in treatment, doctors have discovered that they can successfully neutralise the HIV virus. The so-called ‘combination therapy’ prevents the HIV virus from mutating and spreading, allowing patients to rebuild their immune system to the same levels as the rest of the population. To date, it represents the most significant treatment for patients suffering from HIV.
Professor Jens Lundgren from the University of Copenhagen, together with other members of the research group EuroSIDA, have conducted a study, which demonstrates that the immune system of all HIV-infected patients can be restored and normalised. The only stipulation is that patients begin and continue to follow their course of treatment.
Viruses are small organisms that have no independent metabolism. Consequently, when they enter the body they attack living cells and adopt their metabolism. The influenza virus occupies cells in the nose, throat and lungs; the mumps attaches itself to the salivary glands of the ear; while the Polio virus plays on the intestinal tract, blood and salivary glands. In all these instances, our immune system attacks and eliminates the invading virus.
HIV is so deadly because the virus attaches itself to a crucial part of the immune system itself: to the so-called CD4+T lymphocytes, which are white blood corpuscles that help the immune system to fight infections. The Hi-virus forms and invades new CD4+T-lymphocytes. Slowly but surely, the number of healthy CD4+T lymphocytes in the blood fall, while HIV relentlessly weakens the body’s ability to defend itself from infection. Finally, the immune system erodes to such an extent that the infected patient is diagnosed with AIDS. The Hi-virus mutates constantly as it forms and this is why, scientists face a constant battle to find a cure or a vaccine.
Combination therapy knocks out HIV
Combination therapy prevents the virus from forming and mutating in human beings. When the virus is halted in its progress, the number of healthy CD4+T cells begins to rise and patients, who would otherwise die from HIV, can now survive. The immune system is rejuvenated and is apparently able to normalise itself, providing that the combination therapy is maintained. The moment the immune system begins to improve, the HIV-infected patient can no longer be said to be suffering from an HIV infection or disease, already declining in strength.
Findings from the study are published in the medical journal The Lancet – Vol. 370, Issue 9585, 4 August 2007, Pages 407-413
Copenhagen HIV PROGRAMME
Institute for Othopedics and Internal Medicine/University of Copenhagen