German researchers have developed a new treatment for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. It is not a cure, but stops the virus from multiplying and is effective against strains that have become resistant to treatment.
HIV-infected human cells
The new treatment, developed by scientists at the Heinrich Pette Institute at the University of Hamburg and the Friedrich Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg, takes a slightly different approach to traditional HIV therapies. While conventional anti-retroviral treatments attempt to block the virus' own proteins to keep it from replicating, this time researchers have focused on a human protein which the virus needs to make copies of itself.
The strategy targets a protein of a human host cell and blocks a human protein there called DHS, or deoxyhypusine synthase.
"By indirectly targeting the virus we can also block viruses that are otherwise resistant against current therapies," said Ilona Hauber, the lead scientist on the project.
The development was announced and detailed in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, an American scientific magazine.
South African AIDS activists
Almost 40 million people live with the HIV virus or AIDS and that number is increasing, especially in Africa, parts of Asian and eastern Europe. Even in the developed world, which has been confronted with the disease since the early 1980s, infection rates are rising, especially among young people.
Although scientists are working on a vaccine, most say in the foreseeable future there will be no cure for those already infected. Anti-retroviral therapies which suppress the multiplication of the of the virus have been a breakthrough, however, and enable people to lead longer, higher-quality lives.