Researchers Knock Out HIV
October 24, 2007 9:02 PM   Subscribe

Researchers Knock Out HIV With the latest advances in treatment, doctors have discovered that they can successfully neutralise the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The so-called ‘combination therapy’ prevents HIV from mutating and spreading, allowing patients to rebuild their immune system to the same levels as the rest of the population.
posted by Uther Bentrazor (29 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Seems like this is mixing sensationalism with misleadingness in a pretty touchy context. Probably not a good plan for this post. -- cortex

"I dunno how much AIDS scares y'all, but I got a theory: the day they come out with a cure for AIDS, a guaranteed one-shot cure, on that day there's gonna be fucking in the streets, man." - Bill Hicks
posted by Bletch at 9:08 PM on October 24, 2007 [11 favorites]

posted by tepidmonkey at 9:20 PM on October 24, 2007

Excellent news!
posted by nickyskye at 9:20 PM on October 24, 2007

Yesterdays front page on Digg, today's Meta News.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 9:21 PM on October 24, 2007

Holy crap.
posted by orange swan at 9:23 PM on October 24, 2007

Yesterdays front page on Digg, today's Meta News.

Many of us don't even know and don't have the time to "Digg" out every site in the web to look for the news. Even thought is a day late, I welcome this new (s) discovery, I only hope they can beat the disease.
posted by CRESTA at 9:27 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Article is written strangely, and appears to have been copied fairly wholesale from the U of Copenhagen website. Maybe English wasn't the first language of the original author?

Here's the abstract at PubMed with some actual details.
posted by gimonca at 9:29 PM on October 24, 2007

My bullshit detector is going crazy right now but I'm not sure why.
posted by ryanhealy at 9:29 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I hope this doesn't turn out to be one of those reporter-has-no-clue-how-to-report-science-stories where the actual facts are far less awesome that the story would suggest.

Because if this is true, 'awesome' is the best word I can find to describe how great it would be to have achieved this.
posted by quin at 9:29 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is this as good as it sounds? Is anyone here familiar with the journal this was published in? ("Findings from the study are published in the medical journal The Lancet - Vol. 370, Issue 9585, 4 August 2007, Pages 407-413")

It sounds almost too good to be true, so it's worth checking out before getting too hopeful. I hope it's true, though!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 9:30 PM on October 24, 2007

I don't have Lancet full article access anymore but for anyone who does, it's this one.

Normalisation of CD4 counts in patients with HIV-1 infection and maximum virological suppression who are taking combination antiretroviral therapy: an observational cohort study.

To summarize, it's a European early observational cohort study of 1835 subjects with the standard cART treatment (usually referred to as HAART). It's not new news but anytime we see results like this it's great news and well-deserved applause for all people who've put in billions of man-hours to turning around the outcomes of HIV/AIDS.
posted by junesix at 9:30 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

This story seems to be rehashed caca. Combination therapy has been around for a decade, it just used to be called 'the AIDS cocktail'. It's the toxicity of the drugs used to treat HIV that has been the problem with combination therapy, and to my knowledge this has not been resolved in any meaningful way. If this research demonstrates that a combined regiment of anti-HIV drugs has been found that approaches 100% adherence and efficacy, this would be a meaningful discovery.
posted by breakfast_yeti at 9:35 PM on October 24, 2007

I hope it's true. I'm a little too young to have lost that many close friends to aids (I lost all mine to drugs), but I'm also a little too downtown New York not to have been to a lot of memorial services for a lot of really good people who didn't have to go so soon. I've also known a lot of people who are barely hanging on behind some some super toxic therapy regimes. I know I've said I'm sorry for your trouble to enough grieving survivors, the world needs a little good news.

Here's hoping there's some truth to this thin ass article and given that enough philanthropy left in the world to provide the remedy to those most in need.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:42 PM on October 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

The difference between the current cocktail regimens vs those in past years is that they are pushing up CD4 counts whereas in the past, they were only capable of putting on the brakes. You're right, it's not new but it is significant progress. For HIV-positive patients, it means they can live with more "normal" immune systems instead of the low-CD4 count, immunocompromised system. In real terms, that may not mean much for morbidity figures but it's a real boost to patient quality of life.
posted by junesix at 9:43 PM on October 24, 2007

The misleading part is the title - "knock out" was certainly a sensationalistic choice of words.
posted by junesix at 9:47 PM on October 24, 2007

From the actual paper:
"The objectives of our study were therefore to describe the relation between duration of treatment, CD4 count at the start of cART, current CD4 count, and CD4 count increases in antiretroviral-naive patients starting cART who achieve maximum virological suppression."

I'm not sure there's anything new here at all. They're just using combination therapy which has been around for a while and seeing how cART affects the CD4 count of patients with maximum virological suppression (ie people for whome the therapy has worked). Unless I'm reading the paper wrong, these researchers have hardly knocked out HIV. For what it's worth, the science writer in the fpp article did a really terrible job.
posted by reformedjerk at 9:50 PM on October 24, 2007

The writeup seems to bear little relation to the substance of the paper. I'm more excited by the new integrase inhibitors - crucial for when HAART fails.
posted by meehawl at 9:53 PM on October 24, 2007

Sorry, but I have to flag this. It's not news and the phrasing of the post is misleading.
posted by serazin at 9:54 PM on October 24, 2007

If this is real, this is amazing.
posted by arcticwoman at 10:01 PM on October 24, 2007

HAART, shmart.

My money's on knocking out cancer with reovirus. Oncolytics announced some very promising clinical trial results today; I can only hope they'll have more positive results to announce in the future.
posted by greatgefilte at 10:12 PM on October 24, 2007

I understand this to say "we've been using this particular treatment for a while now, and as long as the patients keep taking their meds, their immune systems are looking good." Am I right? This is not a cure, nor is it life without HIV. It's just AIDS being verifiably kept in remission through a daily cocktail of drugs.

I'm very, very happy that we've gotten to the point where one might expect to die of old age while being HIV positive, but I'm not sure the author has quite got the tone right. HIV isn't being knocked out... it's just put on the back burner, right?
posted by mumkin at 10:34 PM on October 24, 2007

Well, according to our President, the Lancet has been 'pretty much discredited.'
posted by 31d1 at 10:44 PM on October 24, 2007

Oh, God, I hope this is true.

Reading it, it's nothing unbelievable or even very new. They haven't "cured the disease" -- they can just keep you alive indefinitely till you die of something else. Still a great achievement.

I can't express the personal aspect of this.
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 10:48 PM on October 24, 2007

From what I can understand, the article isn't talking about a new "cure" or treatment, per se, but is advertising a scientific study that seems to suggest HIV can effectively be "put into permanent remission" with the right drug combinations.

Granted, it's something that many people have suspected for some time, but if this is hard proof, then it's quite a milestone for AIDS research. In 20 years we've gone from HIV being a 6-month death sentence to being a chronic but manageable illness.

The headline may be sensationalistic, but I believe that medical science has made some sensational advancements in this area.
posted by Avenger at 11:52 PM on October 24, 2007

It's just AIDS being verifiably kept in remission through a daily cocktail of drugs.

And a pretty unpleasant cocktail of drugs at that. Many of the side effects can be so severe that you require hospitalization to be treated for them. So while most people survive now, it's still no picnic.

There's another side effect as well. Certainly, where I live, now that people know that HIV is no longer fatal, so we're seeing pretty significant increases in unprotected sex again, a rise in sexually transmitted diseases and people are still being infected.

It's not really news though. I thought everybody knew this stuff already. The story below about the synergy between naltrexone and anti-retrovirals was interesting though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:57 PM on October 24, 2007

Big deal. Tommy Morrison knocked out AIDS earlier this year.

Well, maybe not.

But it is interesting to read about people who test HIV positive and then years later appear to have "cleared" the virus from their system.

It reminds me of this guy I met several years ago while traveling through Laos. He was a middle-aged gay American guy, of German ancestry, who told me an interesting story. He had been in a long term open relationship with another man in the early 80s. This other man tested positive for HIV (and died from AIDS-related illness only a few years later) and my acquaintance was sure that he would have it too, because, as he said "we had every kind of unprotected sex several times a day for years." However, my acquaintance turned out to be HIV-negative. He was convinced that he had some kind of resistance to the virus (though he didn't tempt fate after that) and that such a resistance has been documented and, though relatively rare, is most often found in people of Northern European ancestry. I wonder if he was right.
posted by banishedimmortal at 12:49 AM on October 25, 2007

This reminds me of one of my favorite Family Guy quotes: (newspaper headline)

Thanks to treatment, Magic Johnson down to one AID.
posted by ao4047 at 2:22 AM on October 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

> "I dunno how much AIDS scares y'all, but I got a theory: the day they come out with a cure for AIDS,
> a guaranteed one-shot cure, on that day there's gonna be fucking in the streets, man." - Bill Hicks
> posted by Bletch at 12:08 AM on October 25 [6 favorites +]

...thereby, if this happens, setting up the best imaginable conditions for spreading azithromycin-resistant syphilis and proving that AIDS has taught a lot of people nothing.
posted by jfuller at 4:24 AM on October 25, 2007

There is nothing new in this article. It merely confirms through a long-term study what has been seen clinically since we had effective combination therapy. The news is good, but it's the same good news we've had for ~10 years.

Furthermore, many people reading this thread and writing "I hope it's true" seem to be under the mistaken impression that this indicates that there is now a "cure" for HIV infection. There is not. There is not likely to be one. In the past several years it has become clear that a reservoir of the virus stored within resting immune cells makes it impossible to wipe the virus out of the body with combination therapies. Stop the meds, the virus is still there.

Bad article, bad post.
posted by OmieWise at 6:03 AM on October 25, 2007

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