In the new treatment researchers were trying to eliminate reservoirs of the virus that escapes current treatment by hiding in some cells. Although the results are preliminary and tests were done on only 4 people, they are hoping to have found a way to clear the body of all HIV infections.
HIV patients are now being treated with highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), which prevents the virus from replicating and restores immune function. However, the virus manages to remain in some infected CD4 cells. If HAART treatment is stopped, the virus in these cells starts to replicate and causes new infection.
In the study, researchers were testing whether valproic acid, which is an inhibitor of HDAC 1 (histone deacetylase, needed for HIV to stay in infested cells), could purge cells of latent HIV infection. In the trial, four HIV patients, who were on HAART and whose virus had been suppressed for a long time, were treated. For four to six weeks, the patients also were given enfurvitide twice daily. This intensified HAART treatment helped to prevent the further spread of HIV. Then, in addition to HAART, the patients were given oral valproic acid daily for three months.
By the end of the trial, three of the patients had a 75 percent reduction in latent HIV infection. The fourth patient developed anemia with valproic acid, so the treatment was stopped. Even though the patients still had reservoirs of latent virus in their bodies scientists believe this approach may lead to a cure for HIV and are about to start a new trial with 50 new patients.