To date, there is no cure for HIV.
Current medication (antiretroviral drugs) have successfully prolonged the life expectancy of people living with HIV, but are unable to completely remove HIV virus from the body. Antiretroviral therapy lowers the amount of virus to a point where it is undetectable in blood samples, but leaves behind a small “reservoir” of HIV virus, which can grow as soon as therapy is stopped. A “cure” for HIV will only exist when we discover a way to kill off the leftover reservoir. Scientists have tried to develop drugs that target HIV reservoirs, but so far, none have been successful. Dr. Brumme and her team are trying to find new drugs that will solve this problem. They looked at natural sources – chemicals found in the ocean and traditional African medicines – and discovered 8 new molecules that seem to have an effect on HIV reservoirs, at least in cells in their lab. Now, Dr. Brumme and her team will take a closer look at why these molecules work, and how exactly they work, by treating cells taken from human patients with HIV. Their hope is to get a better understanding of how we can target HIV reservoirs, and to discover new drugs with potential to help cure HIV when taken along with antiretrovirals.