HIV treatment has saved tens of millions of lives. But people living with HIV/AIDS must take a combination of medicines every day for the rest of their lives.

This is not a sustainable situation, and everybody knows it. The costs are astronomical.

Scientists may have an answer to the problem. Scientists have built eCD4-Ig, a new molecule scientists say might protect human cells from HIV’s persistent efforts to break in and destroy them. So far, eCD4-lg has blocked the virus’ pathway into the cells of monkeys used as test subjects.

Uganda AIDS
Alternate treatments to control HIV could reduce the massive amounts of medications required to treat persons living with the virus. (© AP Images)

Made through genetic engineering techniques from an antibody molecule and a protein, eCD4-lg appears to be  “the most potent and broadest inhibitor of HIV entry so far described in a preclinical study,” according to one of the principal researchers.

A preclinical study has been attempted only in animals, not in people. Much more research still must be done to determine if the molecule is safe and effective in keeping HIV out of human cells. Still, scientists are pretty excited about where this could go.

“This innovative research holds promise for moving us toward two important goals: achieving long-term protection from HIV infection and putting HIV into sustained remission in chronically infected people,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Professor Michael Farzan at The Scripps Research Institute in Florida led the work. NIAID funded his work as part of a broader effort to identify alternatives to lifelong drug treatment.