HIV Patients Build Normal Immune Strength in Study
July 30, 2007
A new study offers hope that AIDS drugs can repair the damage HIV does to the human immune system. In an ideal group of patients, selected because of their optimal responses to a combination of at least three AIDS drugs, CD4 T-cells returned to normal, the researchers said.
"I think it's very encouraging that if people can respond to treatment well enough and can suppress the virus for long enough, we have sufficient evidence to say their CD4 counts can return to normal," said lead author Dr. Amanda Mocroft of Royal Free and University College Medical School-London. "Our previous understanding was that there was a plateau in CD4 counts so that CD4 counts would stop increasing after a sufficiently long time taking combination therapy."
The study involved 1,835 HIV patients who were chosen from a larger study population of more than 14,000 patients in Europe, Israel, and Argentina. The patients were selected because they responded well to treatment: The drugs suppressed their HIV viral counts to very low levels. The patients were followed-up for about five years.
Mocroft noted that not all HIV patients respond so well to treatment, and millions of patients have no access to it. Though they can drive HIV to low levels, existing drugs cannot eradicate the virus from the body.
U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said doctors previously had noted immune system restoration in some patients, but he praised Mocroft's team for systematically documenting the effect.
The full report, "Normalization of CD4 Counts in Patients with HIV-1 Infection and Maximum Virological Suppression Who Are Taking Combination Antiretroviral Therapy: an Observational Study," was published online in The Lancet (2007; doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)60948-9).
7.18.2007; Will Dunham