(EDGE) A team of scientists from five UK universities says it has come close to finding a potential cure for HIV, after a new therapy has rendered the virus completely undetectable in a 44-year-old man's blood -- although they warn that it could be the result of regular HIV drugs.
The UK Telegraph reports that the man is one of 50 people currently in trial for a treatment that targets HIV even in its dormant state.
"This is one of the first serious attempts at a full cure for HIV," said Mark Samuels, managing director of the National Institute for Health Research Office for Clinical Research Infrastructure. We are exploring the real possibility of curing HIV. This is a huge challenge and it's still early days but the progress has been remarkable."
The trial is being undertaken by researchers from the universities of Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College London, University College London and King's College London.
The new therapy works in two stages. First, a vaccine helps the body recognize the HIV-infected cells so it can clear them out. Then, a new drug called Vorinostat activates the dormant T-cells so they can be spotted by the immune system.
Scientists do not yet know if the 44-year-old man's dormant cells have been cured of HIV -- the true rubric of a 'cure.'
Only one person has ever been cured of HIV. He is Timothy Brown, also known as The Berlin Patient, who received a stem cell transplant from a patient with natural immunity to HIV in 2008.
But advocates are excited by the results with Ian Green, chief executive of the Terrence Higgins Trust, said: "There is still no cure for HIV and we welcome this ambitious study which looks to eradicate the virus completely from the bodies of people living with HIV, instead of suppressing it."