Scientists have reported the discovery of a rare group of people living in the Democratic Republic of Congo who have tested positive for HIV antibodies but are living with low or non-detectable levels of viral load without the help of antiretroviral drugs.
The latest discovery is seen as a huge boost to the search for a cure or even the development of a vaccine
Findings from a study, which was published in EBioMedicine and announced by Abbott in a press release on Tuesday shows that the prevalence of this group, dubbed HIV elite controllers, was 2.7%-4.3% in the DR Congo, compared to 0.1%-2% prevalence across the globe.
It is believed that the latest discovery could help uncover links between natural virus suppression and future treatments.
The current work by Abbott who has long been involved in HIV surveillance to monitor and identify mutations in the virus which helps with diagnostic efforts and containment is done in partnership with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the University of Missouri-Kansas City, the Universite Protestant au Congo, and the Johns Hopkins University
Tom Quinn, director of Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health, and chief of the International HIV/AIDS Research Section of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, and one of the study authors, said, “The finding of a large group of HIV elite controllers in the DRC is significant considering that HIV is a life-long, chronic condition that typically progresses over time”
“There have been rare instances of the infection not progressing in individuals prior to this study, but this high frequency is unusual and suggests there is something interesting happening at a physiological level in the DRC that’s not random.”
In his contribution, Dr Michael Berg, an associate research fellow in infectious disease research at Abbott, and lead author of the study, said, “Global surveillance work keeps us ahead of emerging infectious diseases – and in this instance we realized we had found something that could be another step toward unlocking a cure for HIV.
“The global research community has more work to do – but harnessing what we learn from this study and sharing it with other researchers puts us closer to new treatments that could possibly eliminate HIV.”
There is currently no cure for HIV, but can be well controlled with proper medication.