January 9, 2012

HIV treatment discovery is called Breakthrough of the Year

The finding of a team of researchers that HIV treatment with antiretroviral drugs can actually prevent transmission of the virus from an infected person to his or her uninfected partner has been named Breakthrough of the Year for 2011 by the journal Science.

The clinical trial, known as HPTN 052, demonstrated that early initiation of ARV therapy in people infected with HIV reduces transmission of the virus to their partners by 96 percent. The findings end a long-standing debate over whether ARV treatment of HIV-infected individuals can provide a double benefit by treating the virus in individual patients while simultaneously cutting transmission rates, according to the journal. It’s now clear that ARV treatment can also reduce HIV transmission.

The results were called “astounding” by Anthony Fauci, the government’s top HIV researcher.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins provided oversight and support for all the laboratory testing in the trial, and also performed quality assurance testing and other specialized testing for samples coming from study sites.

“This research moves the field of HIV prevention science forward, leading us on a path toward curbing the HIV epidemic,” said Susan H. Eshleman, a professor of pathology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and head of the Network Laboratory for the HIV Prevention Trials Network, which supported the trial.

Four other Hopkins researchers were among the authors of the study, the results of which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine in August. They are Estelle Piwowar-Manning, Taha E. Taha, David Celentano and Joel Gallant.