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Barre-Sinoussi: Still dreaming

The scientist who helped discover the HIV retrovirus talks about her work and why she is convinced a cure for Aids can be found.

…Since 1992 she has led her own unit at Pasteur, which is currently studying examples of naturally occurring immunity to HIV infection and resistance to the onset of Aids that might provide clues on how to design a vaccine or cure. One current study tracks a cohort of so called “elite controllers”, rare people who although HIV-positive don’t develop Aids, and “post-treatment controllers” who after early treatment resist progression without drugs. The group is also about to start working with drug users in Vietnam who remain uninfected despite having been exposed to HIV.

Barré-Sinoussi is convinced a functional cure, which would prevent people with HIV having to take cocktails of antiretroviral drugs for the rest of their lives, is achievable. “It exists naturally so we scientists should be able to induce it,” she says. A total cure or vaccine for HIV are tougher challenges, she says, but ruling them out would be “not French”.

One would think that the existence of more-than-rare elite controllers (benign HIV-positivity), post-treatment controllers (HIV-positivity that signalled a short-term health threat) and the exposure resistant (HIV is not infectious, or is not the core problem) would make Barre-Sinoussi question the edifice she helped to build.

If a functional cure for HIV “exists naturally”, then is she not nodding to an answer within the realm of quackery?

[Source: The Guardian]

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