15 Mar 2013

Fast treatment got results in HIV patients in France

10:54 pm on 15 March 2013

Researchers in France say rapid treatment after HIV infection may be enough to "functionally cure" about a 10th of those diagnosed early.

They have been analysing 14 people who stopped therapy but have since shown no signs of the virus resurging, the BBC says.

It follows reports of a baby girl being effectively cured after very early treatment in the United States.

However, most people infected with HIV do not find out until the virus has fully infiltrated the body.

The group of patients, known as the Visconti cohort, all started treatment within 10 weeks of being infected, reports the BBC.

They were caught early as they turned up in hospital with other conditions and HIV was found in their blood.

They stuck to a course of antiretroviral drugs for three years, on average, but then stopped.

Normally, when the drugs stop, the virus bounces back but this has not happened in the Visconti patients. Some have been able to control HIV levels for a decade.

The drugs keep the virus only in check, they cannot eradicate it from its hiding places inside the immune system.

The BBC's health correspondent says, however, the latest developments offer little to the majority of people living with HIV.

In the Mississippi baby case and in the Visconti cohort the infection was caught very early, within weeks, at a vulnerable stage, he says.

This suggests that by hitting the virus hard when it first infects the body, it might be possible to live for years without needing treatment - a functional cure.