US scientists claim to have discovered a rare group of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo who have tested positive for HIV antibodies but are living with low to non-detectable levels of viral load without the aid of antiretroviral medicines.
The scientists believe is a way of paving the way for vaccine development or possibly even a cure.
Announced in Abbott website in a press release on Tuesday, the researchers say they found out that the prevalence of this group, dubbed HIV elite controllers, was 2.7%-4.3% in the DRC, compared to 0.1%-2% prevalence worldwide.
“A team of scientists has found an unusually high number of people in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) who test positive for HIV antibodies, but have low to non-detectable viral load counts – without the use of antiretroviral treatment.1 these people are referred to as HIV elite controllers. These groundbreaking findings published today in EBioMedicine (part of The Lancet),may help researchers uncover biological trends within this population that could lead to advancements in HIV treatments – and potentially vaccines,” Abbott published in the press release.
The findings of the study was published in EBioMedicine, recommend if they could help uncover links between natural virus suppression and future treatments.
“The finding of a large group of HIV elite controllers in the DRC is significant considering that HIV is a life-long, chronic condition that typically progresses over time,” Tom Quinn, M.D., director of Johns Hopkins Center for Global Health, and chief of the International HIV/AIDS Research Section of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, and one of the study authors told Fox News.
He also said there have been rare instances of the infection not progressing in individuals prior to this study, but this high frequency is unusual and suggests there is something interesting happening at a physiological level in the DRC that’s not random.
Abbott has been involved in decades-long HIV surveillance to monitor and identify mutations in the virus which helps with diagnostic efforts and containment. The current work is being done in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the University of Missouri-Kansas City and the Universite Protestant au Congo.