Scientists Discover Gene Mutation That Could Be Used To Cure HIV

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French scientists have discovered a spontaneous change in genetic code that prevented two HIV-positive men from becoming ill.

The two men, a 57-year-old diagnosed with HIV in 1985 and a 23-year-old diagnosed in 2011, have never experienced symptoms of AIDS — the disease doesn’t even show up in their blood.

Researchers sequenced the genetic code of the HIV in their cells and found that the virus was unable to replicate because its DNA had randomly mutated.

The change appears to be due to stimulation of an enzyme that could be used for a potential cure as well as a process called “endogenisation” in which the body evolves to prevent viral replication.

The team wrote,

We propose that HIV cure may occur through HIV endogenisation in humans. These findings suggest that without therapeutic and prophylactic strategies, after several decades of HIV/host integrations and millions of deaths, it is likely that a few individuals might have endogenised and neutralised the virus and transmitted it to their progeny.

The two men are among the 1 percent of HIV patients known as “elite controllers,” people who are impervious to AIDS replicating to detectable levels, and they may pass on this ability to their offspring.

Exactly how their genetic makeup causes the HIV genetic code to mutate, however, has yet to be determined.

The researchers, who carried out their work at France’s Institute of Health and Medical Research, wrote that the chances of curing AIDS may be higher if doctors preserve HIV DNA rather than try to flush it out.

They said,

We suggest that persistence of integrated HIV DNA is not a barrier, but on the contrary, may be a prerequisite to HIV cure. We propose a new vision of HIV cure through integration, inactivation and potential endogenisation of a viral genome into the human genome.

The discovery was unveiled on Tuesday and published in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection.

Timothy Ray Brown is the only person to have been entirely cured of HIV thanks to a bone marrow transplant he got from an HIV-resistant donor.

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