The scientists have cleared an HIV-like infection in mice by boosting their immune system with a synthetic version of a hormone that occurs naturally in the body.
"We are very optimistic that we should be able to find a cure for HIV in 10 to 15 years," said lead researcher Dr Marc Pellegrini, of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute in Melbourne.
Dr Pellegrini said the cure would be in the form of an injection, given to HIV patients either every three days or once a week - depending on its strength - for about a month.
The breakthrough could cure other chronic viral infections, such as hepatitis B and C, and bacterial infections such as tuberculosis, he said.
"Viruses such as HIV and hepatitis B and C overwhelm the immune system, leading to the establishment of chronic infections that are lifelong and incurable," Dr Pellegrini said.
The body became so overrun by the virus the immune system, in particular T-cells, gave up trying to battle the infection.
The breakthrough centers on a hormone that occurs in low levels in the body's immune system called interlukin-7 (IL-7).
Dr Pellegrini's team infected mice with a virus which mimics HIV. Some were then injected with IL-7 over three weeks, and the rest given an alternative.
The researchers found that the T cell numbers in the mice given IL-7 were boosted dramatically after 30 days -- and after 60 days they were clear of the virus.
Dr Pellegrini hopes to begin trials on newly infected HIV patients within two years
The research is published in the journal Cell.
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