Across the globe, there are currently approximately 33.4 million people living with human immunodeficiency virus or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV/AIDS), and the disease has claimed the lives of over 25 million since it was initially reported in 1981. Some areas, such as sub-saharan Africa, are particularly affected. In that region as many as 1 in 3 people are infected with the virus.
This pandemic has been particularly difficult to treat because the medications are expensive and must be stored in precise conditions. On top of that, there is a high number of pills that must be taken each day. HIV is notorious for how quickly it mutates, which is yet another reason why researchers have had such a difficult time killing the virus entirely. Despite these challenges, there have been encouraging advances announced in combating HIV.
It was recently announced that a new drug to treat HIV by preventing it from integrating with human DNA has been developed. The medication works by inhibiting HIV integrase, the enzyme that allows the virus to tap into human DNA. Integrase has been an attractive target for HIV researchers for years, and two approved medications are already on the market. This new medication is unique in that it may also be an effective treatment against co-infections of viral and microbial infections, such as tuberculosis. The drug is currently in the pre clinical test phase, where issues such as efficacy and toxicity are determined.
One research team believes they are developing a drug that circumvents this obstacle, and can actually trick HIV into destroying itself while leaving healthy cells alone. This "Dual Action Virolytic Entry Inhibitor" (DAVEI) makes the virus think it is attached to a cell. When the virus then goes to release its contents into what it believes is the new host, it really just pops itself and renders itself inert.
Some early research even supports the potential for an AIDS vaccine. The candidate vaccine was shown to completely clear monkeys of the HIV-related simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV). Researchers hope that further development will result in a vaccine that will clear humans of HIV. The team is currently exploring options to modify the cytomegalovirus (CMV) vector so that it will have similar positive results in humans.