MEDICINE: US scientists hail HIV breakthrough

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The Independent Online
Powerful drug combinations currently being used to treat people with HIV could eliminate the virus altogether within two or three years, opening up the prospect of a cure for the disease, United States scientists report today.

Researchers from Rockefeller University, New York, led by David Ho, followed the progress of eight patients over eight weeks, and found the concentration of virus in the blood fell 99 per cent in the first two weeks. This was followed by a slower phase over the next 40 days during which the viral load continued to fall.

Writing in the science journal Nature, the researchers forecast that the virus could be eliminated after 2.3 to 3.1 years, although in practice treatment might have to continue for longer. However, the claim was dismissed by Professor Robin Weiss, a virologist at the Institute of Cancer Research in London, who said: "I think it is dangerous to talk about eradication of HIV ... we don't know of any retrovirus in any animal that has been eradicated once it has taken hold ... I think this will give a lot of false hope." Jeremy Laurance

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