Danish scientists believe they are on the brink of finding a cure for HIV which could be used to treat millions of people with the Aids virus.
Clinical tests are currently being conducted on a new technique which involves removing the virus from human DNA and then allowing it to be destroyed naturally by the body’s immune system.
The scientists, based at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, say the possible cure would be affordable and would represent a dramatic step forward in the attempt to find a cure for the HIV virus which affects 33 million people worldwide.
Fifteen patients are currently taking part in the trials, and if they are found to have successfully been cured of HIV, the new technique will be tested on a wider scale.
Dr Ole Søgaard, a senior researcher on the project, told The Sunday Telegraph, he was ‘almost certain’ scientists would be successful in releasing reservoirs of HIV to the surface of DNA cells.
He said: ‘The challenge will be getting the patients’ immune system to recognize the virus and destroy it.
‘This depends on the strength and sensitivity of individual immune systems.’
The news comes just two days after the U.S government stopped trials of another experimental HIV vaccine after an independent review found it did not prevent HIV infection or reduce the amount of HIV in the blood.
The study, called HVTN 505, had enrolled 2,504 volunteers in 19 U.S. cities.
The vaccine was based on a common cold virus that was used to sneak HIV genes into the body and grab the attention of the immune system.
With modern HIV treatment, a patient can expect to live an almost normal life, even into old age, with limited side effects.
However, if medication is stopped, HIV reservoirs become active and start to produce more of the virus, meaning that symptoms can reappear within two weeks.
Finding a cure would free a patient from the need to take continuous HIV medication, and save health services across the world billions of pounds.
The technique used by the Danish scientists is also being researched in Britain, but studies have not yet moved on from the clinical trial stage.
The Danish scientists were awarded £1.5 million [about $2.3 million USD] by the Danish Research Council to pursue clinical trials on human subjects in January.
The scientists are using drugs known as HDAC inhibitors which are also used to treat some forms of cancer.