HIV protein research shows promise
A Queensland scientist has developed a way to use HIV proteins to inhibit the virus.
Associate Professor David Harrich from the Queensland Institute of Medical Research Molecular Virology Laboratory has determined how to modify a protein in the virus so that it provides “strong, lasting protection from infection”.
“This is like fighting fire with fire,” Harrich said.
“If this research continues down its strong path, and bear in mind there are a number of hurdles to clear, we’re looking at a cure for AIDS.”
Harrich invented the ‘Nullbasic’ protein by mutating an existing HIV protein, which has the ability to stop the virus replicating in a lab environment.
“I have never seen anything like it. The modified protein works every time,” Harrich said.
“You would still be infected with HIV, it’s not a cure for the virus. But the virus would stay latent, it wouldn’t wake up, so it wouldn’t develop into AIDS. With a treatment like this, you would maintain a healthy immune system.”
But with experimenters only just beginning tests on mice, potential human trials are still some five years away.
Paul Martin from Queensland LGBTI health and well-being organisation Healthy Communities welcomed the news of the research, but said a treatment or cure based on it was still a long way off and many such breakthroughs in the past had ultimately not proved useful.
“It would appear from the article that the researchers have a concept that they have tested in the test tube,” Martin said.
“As the article states, this then needs to go through animal trials and then several stages of human trials, which takes many years. I hope it works out.”
Martin said the best approach to HIV prevention is a combination of approaches involving behaviour change, condoms, biomedical for example PEP, testing, HIV treatment and social and legal reform.
“New ways of doing any of these types of prevention should continue to be trialled, including for example vaccines and microbicides, and if found effective made available.”