With more than 25 years of experience investigating HIV, Daniel Kuritzkes, MD, chief of the division of infectious diseases at Brigham & Women’s Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School, puts into context the strides the community has made toward eradicating HIV in the past several years.
The success seen with transplantation of intrinsically HIV-resistant stem cells in the Berlin patient “galvanized the field” to even consider curing the disease as an area of research — countering previous “dogma that you can’t cure infections due to retroviruses like HIV,” said Kuritzkes.
The current chair of the NIH-funded AIDS Clinical Trials Group Network highlights pivotal research from his institution involving stem cells transplantation during ART. Although the treatment dashed raised hopes of a cure when it was interrupted, the study displayed complexities of the virus “hiding out” or “concentrations simply too low to be detected” and showed the potential of the immune system.
However, coming face-to-face with challenges has not “dampened enthusiasm” in the quest for a cure, said Kuritzkes. He details a number of novel approaches aimed at virus eradication from activating latent viruses to harnessing the immune system to attack virus-producing cells to therapeutic vaccines.
“There is every reason to be hopeful given the new tools that are being discovered and the technologies that are now available to us,” Kuritzkes said. “But we’re very clearly at the earliest stage of this research.”