Results of the first human clinical trial of the HIV drug, Gammora, have shown that it can eliminate up to 99 per cent of the virus within four weeks of treatment.
The results released Sunday show that Gammora significantly reduced the viral load in human subjects by killing infected cells without harming healthy ones, unlike antiretroviral drugs which suppress the spreading of the virus.
The study was done by researchers from Zion Medical, an Israeli biotech company, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
"The drug triggers the self-destruction of the infected cell called apoptosis. It has the potential to cure HIV-infected patients by destroying all cells carrying the HIV genome.
"These first clinical results were beyond our expectations and promise hope in finding a cure for the disease," Dr Esmira Naftali, head of development at Zion Medical, said, adding that nine patients at Ronald Bata Memorial Hospital in Uganda were randomly assigned to receive different doses of the drug for four to five weeks.
In the second part of the trial done two weeks later, patients were given the drug with additional retroviral treatment after four to five weeks.
Patients received either lopinavir 800 mg and ritonavir 200 mg (LPV+r) daily in combination with Gammora administered twice a week, or LPV+r only.
The results showed that the combined treatments eliminated up to 99 per cent of the viral load within four weeks without exhibiting any side effects.
During the 10-week study, patients in both groups showed a significant increase in T-cell count -- another name for CD4 cells, which play a role in the body's immune system.
"Given the limited nature of this study, we are excited to prove the efficiency of our drug in phase 2b with a greater number of participants over a longer period of time," Dr Naftali said.
Prof Abraham Loyter of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem started the study a decade ago. Phase Two is expected to begin in the coming months, expanding the pool of subjects to 50 and the dosage period to three months.
The drug is derived from HIV enzyme integrate that is responsible for inserting the virus's genetic material into the DNA of the infected cell.
There are indications that 1,493,382 Kenyans live with the virus, with the overall prevalence rate dropping to 4.8 per cent.
The prevalence among women is 5.2 per cent and 4.5 per cent in men. More than 53,291 Kenyans are receiving pre-exposure prophylaxis.
The government intends to raise the number to half a million people by 2022.