A permanent cure for HIV could soon be available, with scientists proving they can snip out the virus from infected cells.
They use a gene editing technique known as Crispr/Cas9 (the first bit is pronounced ‘crisper’) to literally cut out the damaging part from the cells’ DNA.
HIV works by damaging patients’ immune systems, meaning minor illnesses like colds can spiral into something more serious.
Researchers from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine in Philadelphia published the results of their study in the journal Nature.
At the moment, it has only been demonstrated in a lab but scientists believe a trial in humans could happen in the next few years.
There had been fears that changing part of the DNA could cause a ripple effect meaning other genes changed too – but that didn’t happen, and only the HIV part was affected.
Lead researcher Kamel Khalili told Medical Daily that ‘based on the technology and the power of the [gene editing] technique], the successful application of gene therapy should lead to the cure of HIV.’
Uganda has won praise for its vigorous campaign against HIV/Aids.
This has helped to reduce the prevalence of the virus – which reached 30% of the population in the 1990s – to single-digit figures.
The condition can be effectively controlled using anti-retroviral drugs, but at the moment there is no cure.