A microscope image of the HIV virus. Courtesy CDC
A microscope image of the HIV virus. Courtesy CDC

A consortium of investigators led by the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute in La Jolla have found drugs that may purge dormant HIV from a patient’s body, eliminating the deadly virus once and for all.

The researches said the drugs are already being explored in clinical trials for treating cancer, so could be approved quickly for treating HIV.

Antiretroviral therapies have made it possible for people to live with HIV for decades. However, patients continue to harbor small and persistent reservoirs of cells that hide the virus.

“If you take people off their antiretroviral therapies, some of these dormant cells reawaken to make more virus and re-establish disease,” said lead author Lars Pache, a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Sumit Chanda, director of the immunity and pathogenesis program. “The key for a cure for HIV is to purge these cells that have dormant HIV.”

The new study, published Wednesday in the journal Cell Host & Microbe, found drugs that “tap into a molecular backdoor, a cell pathway that can be used as an intense alarm to wake up the virus, but doesn’t appear to activate the immune system,” Chanda said.

The scientists hope to partner with a pharmaceutical company to develop these drugs for evaluation in clinical models of HIV latency and then move them into human testing if they meet the safety criteria.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.