Study Reveals That Early Therapy is Critical for HIV Patients
A new study that was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine reveals the optimal timing for therapy against HIV infection, thus giving patients a higher chance to respond well to treatment. The study is led by researchers from the University of Texas and the University of California, in the United States and from Monash University, in Australia. According to the study, if antiretroviral medication is administered in within the first 4 months of infection, the immune system is able to recover close to normal levels.
The data, which was gathered from 468 patients who were observed during a 48-month period, shows that patients who received the antiretroviral medication earlier managed to recover faster from the deficit of CD4+ T-cells, in comparison with the patients who received the medication after a longer period. The CD4+ T-cells are responsible for the immune system’s response to infection. An HIV infection causes the number of CD4+ T-cells to drop significantly, almost depleting their number. Furthermore, the study reveals that patients with a higher number of CD4+ T-cells have a better recovery rate than patients with lower starting number of CD4+ T-cells, even if the medication is started at the same time.
Professor Wright, an associate professor and co-author of the study, notes that future clinical trials are needed in order to investigate whether medication that is administered sooner can also help improve the chance for a better response from future therapies. “In the four months after HIV infection the immune system mounts an immune response and starts to recover naturally before it subsequently progressively declines”, notes Wright, whilst adding that this observation could mean that future therapies could target this time window and aid the recovery of the CD4+ T-cells. Researchers note that early therapy with potent antiretroviral medication could lead to a full recovery of the immune system through the replenishment of CD4+ T-cells. The recovery of these cells would aid the capacity of the immune system to respond to infections and other diseases. The study concludes that if antiretroviral therapy is delayed by even a short period of time, it could mean an insufficient recovery of the CD4+ T-cells.
Wright and his fellow researchers from the Monash University are currently conducting a clinical trial called START. The team is researching the effects and benefits of administering antiretroviral medication early after HIV infection. 30+ countries are involved in the study, with more than 4000 HIV positive patients. Patients will be followed up for 5 years and results will be compared between early and deferred antiretroviral medication.