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Leukaemia Drug Offers Hope to HIV Patients, Seems Less Risky Than Stem Cell Transplant

Image only for representational purpose. (Photo: Reuters)

Image only for representational purpose. (Photo: Reuters)

The development makes experts hope that the breakthrough could lead to the curing of millions of people living across the world with the virus.

Researchers are now claiming that a leukaemia drug may completely rid HIV-positive patients of the virus. According to a report published in Daily Mail, researchers said that trials on four infected monkeys showed that two given arsenic trioxide had no detectable levels of the virus even after 80 days of the treatment.

The other two had diminished amount of virus in their bodies, but not enough to be considered to be in remission. Notably none of the macaques, who were given a strain of HIV similar to that which strikes humans - were given any other drugs to keep the virus at bay.

The development makes experts hope that the breakthrough could lead to the curing of millions of people living across the world with the virus. The study, conducted by researchers at King's College London and the Chinese Academy of Sciences gave four HIV-positive macaques arsenic trioxide.

According to the results published in Advanced Science two of the monkeys showed signs of the virus being fully suppressed. In conversation with MailOnline, UNICEF’s HIV/AIDS advisor Shaffiq Essajee said that the new drugs, in combination with existing antiretrovirals may be able to reduce or eliminate the HIV reservoir.

Incidentally, doctors are currently experimenting with a stem-cell transplant that has cured at least two patients of the virus. However, the method is risky. On the other hand, the researchers, led by Dr Qing Yang, revealed that drug approach can mimic the risky second phase of a stem cell transplant where it reduced the number of immune cells that have HIV receptors on.

However, it is unclear how arsenic trioxide does this. Researchers say that further trials are needed to confirm the new findings before the drug is tested on humans.