Brisbane: Pre-clinical trials for permanently suppressing HIV are set to begin at the QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, in Brisbane.

Associate Professor David Harrich said that the gene therapy could replace or diminish the need for the constant cocktail of drugs HIV patients currently need to stop HIV from crippling their immune system or developing into AIDS.

Harrich genetically modified an existing protein in the virus and found the changed molecules prevent HIV from infecting other cells.

His latest research has shown how the mutated protein Nullbasic works to stop HIV from spreading.

Professor Harrich has been researching HIV/AIDS since the first cases emerged in the 1980s, and runs the only research laboratory and containment facilities in Queensland working with the virus.

“The next step in this project will be to test the effectiveness and safety of Nullbasic in patient cells in the lab, and in small animals. In our research so far there is no sign that Nullbasic has any associated toxicity – so patients could have their virus permanently suppressed with little or no side-effects,” he said.

The paper has been published in the Journal of Virology (JVI).

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