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'Functional cure' discovered for HIV by Scripps scientists

5:30 pm: HIV breakthrough
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It’s a virus that leads to a disease that kills one million people in the United States every year.

Now, Scripps scientists have found a groundbreaking new way patients may be able to better manage HIV in the future.

"Were putting the virus to sleep,” said Susana Valente, adding that the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter has successfully tested a new drug on mice that’s being called a “functional cure.”

The drug helps stops the spread of HIV by reducing the virus to undetectable levels.

"It allows the virus to become really really sleepy and even if you remove the drugs there's not an immediate viral rebound,” she said.

Essentially, it lies dormant.

The drug stopped HIV from returning to the mice for at least a week after all treatment had stopped.

"In the future, if we add this type of drug to the current cocktail of therapy, we would see a very nice reduction of this low level of virus that is still present,” Valente said.

Valente said the drug also can stop the neurological deterioration caused by HIV.

It could greatly improve the quality of life of patients.

"They would be able to live a normal life without feeling the damage caused by the virus,” said Valente.

Dylan Brooks runs the HIV prevention program at Compass LGBT Community Center in Lake Worth.

He said hearing about the research being done at Scripps gives him hope that one day the people he helps can lead healthier life’s.

"It’s giving a person who is HIV positive hope that there's still a tomorrow. This is just the next chapter of your life. This isn't the end of your book,” said Brooks.

Researchers will eventually need to test the treatment in humans, but that could be years away.

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