Paris (AFP) - French scientists said Tuesday they had found the genetic mechanism by which two HIV-infected men may have experienced a "spontaneous cure", and said it offered a new strategy in the fight against AIDS.
Both men were infected by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), one of them 30 years ago, but never developed AIDS symptoms.
The AIDS-causing virus remained in their immune cells but was inactivated because its genetic code had been altered, the scientists said.
The change appeared to be linked to increased activity of a common enzyme named APOBEC, they theorised.
The "apparent spontaneous cure" throws up an intriguing avenue for drug engineers, the team said in a statement.
"The work opens up therapeutic avenues for a cure, using or stimulating this enzyme, and avenues for identifying individuals among newly-infected patients who have a chance of a spontaneous cure."
The work, published in the journal Clinical Microbiology and Infection, was carried out by scientists at France's Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm).
HIV replicates by invading human CD4 immune cells, which it reprogrammes to become virus factories.
A rare group of people -- fewer than one percent of those infected -- are naturally able to rein in viral replication and keep the virus at clinically undetectable levels.
They are known as "elite controllers", but the mechanism by which they keep the virus at bay remains a mystery.
The French group looked at two such individuals, a 57-year-old man diagnosed HIV-positive in 1985, and a 23-year-old diagnosed in 2011, and sequenced their virus genomes.
Though they remained infected, standard tests could not detect the virus in their blood.
The team found that in both cases, the virus was unable to replicate in immune cells due to mutations in its genetic code.
The researchers suggested spontaneous evolution between humans and the virus, a process called "endogenisation" that is believed to have neutralised other viruses in humans in the past. READ MORE
Forty years later, only one state is making reparations for thousands of forced sterilizations.
From the early decades of the 20th century until 1974, 32 states in the union mandated the sterilization of more than 65,000 citizens. At the behest of government eugenics boards, girls and women had their tubes tied or uteri removed, and boys and men their vasa deferentia snipped because they had been deemed unfit to reproduce. Still others came under the scalpel of private doctors, and this second group makes the calculations difficult—65,000 represents only the number of sterilizations where there was municipal paperwork.
In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the Eugenics Compensation statute, and last week the state’s department of commerce began the long-awaited disbursement of financial reparations to victims of sterilization. Two hundred twenty living victims will receive checks of $20,000 each—220 checks, out of 768 claims. Between 1929 and 1974, North Carolina sterilized at least 7,600 people. However mortifying the disparity here, we must give the Assembly credit for passing legislation that no other state has so far brought to a vote; by contrast, California has kept positively mum about its own similar history, which accounts for a third of all American sterilizations.