A potential AIDS treatment is being explored after scientists found some HIV-infected children has some defense from developing the disease. This discovery could pave way for rebalancing an HIV patient’s immune system.
The research published in Science Translational Medicine suggests a tenth out of the 1.8 million children infected with HIV has an immune system that helped them prevent contracting AIDS, an advanced HIV infection. With further research, a better understanding of a patient’s immune system despite contracting HIV can create avenues for developing new treatments.
Human Evolution Teaches the Body To Fight
For the study, the blood of 170 HIV-infected children from South Africa was analyzed. Despite the presence of high concentrations of the human immunodeficiency virus on the children who never had antiretroviral therapy (ART), researchers found their immune system were “keeping calm” and the infection did not progress into AIDS.
One of the lead authors of the study, Philip Goulder from the University of Oxford Department of Paediatrics, said that what occurred in the cases is “natural selection.” Human evolution may have allowed the body to defend itself from the infection while the study notes this case is only unique to children.
Hope For New Treatment
HIV is a virus that cannot be taken out of one’s system. Since it attacks the body’s immune system which is our natural defense to fight off illnesses, the person infected will be vulnerable and ill-equipped in battling diseases and infections.
When the patient remains untreated, the virus may progress into acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) – the last stage of the HIV infection where the immune system already becomes too weak. This will eventually lead to developing many complications and can even cause death.
It is worth noting that the found defense in the study does not stop children from contracting HIV but instead bars the progression of AIDS. And the significance of the research lies in further analysis using the findings in exploring new treatments.
According to Goulder, studying the children in the longer term may create pathways for “new treatments for all HIV-infected people.” With over 36.7 million people worldwide infected with HIV in a 2015 data, further studies that can help millions of patients get back their strong immune system would be a major leap in fighting off one of the world’s most serious diseases.