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Early treatment of HIV could slow down virus

17th January 2013

Researchers have said that a rapid response to HIV could be the future of treatment.

hiv virus

Scientists have said that rather than the current system of giving HIV drugs to patients once their immune system has been seriously weakened, they should be administered antiretroviral therapy upon diagnosis.

Findings from the Spartac study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the Wellcome Trust, showed that a year-long course of therapy after diagnosis helped preserve the immune system, kept the virus in check, and potentially reduced the spread of HIV.

Some 366 patients from eight countries tested the theory.

One group were given 12 weeks of drugs after being diagnosed, another group had drugs for 48 weeks after diagnosis and a third group were given no drugs until their CD4 T-cell count, a part of the immune system, had fallen below 350 cells per cubic millimetre of blood – the point at which treatment is currently given.

Professor Jonathan Weber from Imperial College London said those on the 48-week regime “end up with much higher CD4 cell count and a much lower viral load.”

Scientists also said an advantage of keeping the levels of the virus low could mean a reduced risk of passing on the virus to a sexual partner.

Dr Jimmy Whitworth from the Wellcome Trust said: “This study adds to increasing evidence that early initiation of HIV treatment is of benefit to the individual in preventing severe disease and in reducing infectiousness to his or her partners.”

 

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