A team of researchers from North-western University and Vanderbilt University have recently found a way to kill the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that was estimated to infect around 50,000 people every year.
In 2012, more than 35 million people had this deadly virus, which resulted in more than one million deaths a year after that.
The number of people dying from AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) has decreased within the last decade, mainly because the medication available was greatly developed, giving people infected with HIV a chance to a longer life.
The treatment is known as highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), which does not represent a cure but is able to slow down the pace at which the disease progresses.
However, researchers have found a way to exterminate the virus by cutting off its sugar and nutrients supply.
They basically explained that HIV is a virus that has a sweet tooth, just like cancer cells, and this can eventually become its downfall once it is blocked from feeding on the sugar present in the immune cells (CD4 + T-cells), which it attacks and infects.
The experts said that the virus can only replicate if it has the necessary supply of nutrients and sugar to feed on. Thus, if it has nothing to eat, it will soon die and it will be impossible for it to multiply and spread in the human body.
“It’s a monster that invades the cell and says “feed me!,” study co-author Harry Taylor from Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine said.
A way to turn off the pipeline that provides sugar to the virus is to block an element called phospholipase D1 (PLD1), which is present in the immune cell and which needs to be activated in order to allow the virus to deprive the cell of glucose.
This is a huge step forward, given the fact that many experts have struggled to find ways to help those who are infected by HIV. Even if the drugs available are quite efficient, the virus has learnt how to adapt to them and has become more resistant in time.
The discovery provides a new effective way of combating the virus without having the person depend on drugs and constantly find ways to overcome its strength and ability to multiply.
The study, published in journal PLOS Pathogens on April 28th can also be used for those doing research into cancer treatments.
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