At Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic researches have been able to reduce the level of HIV in infected patients using a personalized treatment that they believe could potentially replace the more expensive antiretroviral drug treatment widely used today.
After a 24 week clinical trial on 24 AIDS patients, the majority in the trial displayed a significant decrease in their viral load, although the hospital cautions that it is still not a viable treatment in its current stage.
"This decrease was very significant in some of them but in no case did the virus become undetectable," the hospital statement said.
"However this is a very important improvement with respect to previous initiatives where with a similar vaccine there was a modest response in 30 percent of the treated patients. No therapeutic vaccine has achieved up to now the same level of response as in this study."
For the clinical trial, vaccines were made from each patient’s own dendritic cells (special cell that is a key regulator of the immune system). These cells were taken from the patients and “reeducated” to attack HIV using samples of HIV also taken from the patients. Each round of adjusted cells was injected back into the patients in three separate stages, two weeks apart.
This new treatment would cost around 3,000 Euros per year (a little over $4000) which is a large sum less than the price of antiretrovirals which cost about 8,000 Euros per year (almost $11,000).
Lisa Power, Policy Director at HIV and sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "Therapeutic vaccines are an exciting area of research. Current drug treatment is good at keeping HIV in check, but as people with HIV now routinely live well into old age, the lifetime cost of treatment can be high. An effective therapeutic vaccine could not only be less expensive, but people living with HIV might find it easier to manage.
"This trial is a step in the right direction, but until we find a vaccine that controls the virus as well as antiretroviral treatment does, we're not there yet. This research give us a good idea of where to concentrate efforts in the future."
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