Human immunodefieciency virus (HIV)
Human immunodefieciency virus (HIV)

HIV turns against itself and dampens the progress of the killer disease in tests that may pave the way for an Aids cure.

Scientists in Australia have modified a protein of the HIV virus to prevent it from replicating. That stopped progress of the deadly disease in its tracks.

Queensland Institute for Medical Research associate professor David Harris, who took part in the research, called the technique "fighting fire with fire".

He predicted that it could one day wipe out the fatal Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome although it would not prevent people contracting the virus.

"What we've done is taken a normal virus protein that the virus needs to grow, and we've changed this protein, so that instead of assisting the virus, it impedes virus replication and does it quite strongly," Harris told ABC.

Prof Dave Harris
Prof David Harris

"This therapy is potentially a cure for Aids," he said. "It's not a cure for HIV infection but it potentially could end the disease.

"This protein, present in immune cells, would help to maintain a healthy immune system so patients can handle normal infections.

Aids is the final stage of the HIV virus, which devastates the body's immune system. More than 30 million people have died of Aids since its emergence in the 1980s.

Around 34 million people live with HIV worldwide. In the UK, it is estimated that 96,000 people are HIV-positive and up to half of them are estimated to be unaware that they have the condition.

The findings will be tested through animal trials this year and hopes are high among researchers. Even if successful, however, no breakthrough drug would reach the market for a decade.

"What people are looking for is a means to go on and live happy and productive lives with as little intrusion as possible," said Harris.

"You either have to eliminate the virus infection or you have to eliminate the disease process and that's what this could do, potentially for a very long time."

The research was published by the journal Human Gene Therapy.

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