By Brandon Montes
The deadly AIDS virus, which has outwitted the world’s researchers for decades, may soon see its demise, thanks to a new drug being tested in Israel.
Scientists from Hebrew University in Jerusalem found that the experimental drug Gammora reduced the virus count by 97 percent in test tubes, various news outlets reported.
“We want to invent new mechanisms we hope will help us cure the virus,” Professor Zev Sthoeger said in the Jerusalem Post.
The HIV virus, transmitted through bodily fluids, with time develops into AIDS. Beating the virus has been the elusive Holy Grail of medical researchers for decades because the infection goes undetected by our bodies’ immunological defense system. Meanwhile, the virus invades the CD4+ white blood cells, breaking down the patient’s ability to fight disease. Stripped of its capability to fight off disease, the body succumbs to cancer or ordinary infections.
Since the epidemic emerged in 1981, 25 million people have died from AIDS, and 60 million are infected with the HIV virus. To date, scientists have developed medicines to slow the progress of the disease but not eradicate the virus completely. All attempts at a vaccine have failed.
Sthoeger’s approach to halt the virus is different from previous experiments. His drug causes more than one copy of HIV’s DNA to enter a cell. This, in turn, leads the cell to self-destruct, thus shutting down what otherwise would become a virus-replicating factory in the body, The Times of Israel reported.
“With our approach, we are destroying the cells, so there is no chance that the virus will awaken one day, because there are no cells,” said Abraham Loyter who developed a peptide, a small protein that is the active ingredient in the drug. “There will be no cells that contain the virus.”
But there will be a long testing period before the drug can be released on the market. Sthoeger said trials will begin soon at the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot, where he is head of the internal medicine department.
The drug was inserted into test tubes containing the blood of ten AIDS patients currently being treated at the hospital, and was found to decrease the HIV virus count in the blood samples by as much as 97 percent in just eight days, an Israeli television station reported.
The Israeli start-up Zion Pharmaceuticals is developing the medication.
Brandon Montes is a sophomore at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.