Advertisement covers The 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2012)

Medical News

Penn, Wistar Researchers Thwart HIV Without Antiviral Drugs

March 9, 2012

US scientists have shown for the first time they can suppress HIV by boosting patients' immune systems while taking them off standard AIDS drugs.

The study set out "to answer the question: Is it possible to control the virus with immune therapy? The answer is yes," said Luis Montaner, an immunologist with Philadelphia's Wistar Institute, which led the research with scientists from the University of Pennsylvania. Montaner presented the results Wednesday in Seattle at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.

The 20 study patients received antiretrovirals plus interferon-alfa for five weeks, then interferon-alfa only for up to 24 weeks. Interferon-alfa is an antiviral chemical produced by the human immune system. Any participant whose HIV viral load surged above a low threshold was put back on the AIDS medications immediately. Nine of the patients (45 percent) suppressed HIV on interferon-alfa alone. Three kept the virus in check for 12 weeks; six continued to have suppressed virus at the end of the 24-week study. DNA testing found that seven patients had a significant decrease in HIV hiding in their T-cells.

Previous research had shown interferon alone to be ineffective against HIV. Montaner speculated that the improved results in this study may stem from the overlapping treatment, with the AIDS drugs giving the interferon a chance to prime the immune system for defensive action, much as a vaccine primes it to prevent infection.

"When the study was started, it was expected by most people to fail," Montaner said. "Now, everyone is intrigued and hopeful." The team's next step is finding funding for a larger trial.

Back to other news for March 2012

Adapted from:
Philadelphia Inquirer
03.08.2012; Marie McCullough

This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.


Add Your Comment:
(Please note: Your name and comment will be public, and may even show up in
Internet search results. Be careful when providing personal information! Before
adding your comment, please read's Comment Policy.)

Your Name:

Your Location:

(ex: San Francisco, CA)

Your Comment:

Characters remaining:

Please note: Knowledge about HIV changes rapidly. Note the date of this summary's publication, and before treating patients or employing any therapies described in these materials, verify all information independently. If you are a patient, please consult a doctor or other medical professional before acting on any of the information presented in this summary. For a complete listing of our most recent conference coverage, click here.


The content on this page is free of advertiser influence and was produced by our editorial team. See our content and advertising policies.