French scientists believe they have identified the means by which two HIV-positive men have been “spontaneously cured,” and that this insight may carve a new cure pathway, Yahoo News reports. Publishing their findings in Clinical Microbiology, researchers identified two HIV-positive men who are “elite controllers”—meaning their bodies control the virus without the aid of antiretrovirals—and theorize that enzymes have altered the virus’ genome in order to bring it to heel.

One of the men is a 57-year-old diagnosed with HIV in 1985. The other is 23 years old and was diagnosed in 2011. Neither has ever experienced any HIV-related disease, neither has detectable HIV in standard tests, and both have normal CD4 cell levels. The researchers drew viral DNA sequences that had been integrated into the men’s own genomes in order to perform tests and theorize how the men are able to control the virus.

The researchers propose that a common enzyme known as APOBEC altered the genetic code of HIV in each man’s body, rendering the virus unable to replicate, in a process known as endogenization. Though the men remain infected with HIV, researchers believe they can be categorized as cured. This is in contrast to the prevailing perception of what constitutes a cure: complete eradication of the virus resulting from a purging process, including the flushing and elimination of the viral reservoir. The researchers in this study propose that pursuing endogenization of the viral genome may prove to be an avenue for achieving a cure in humans.

“We suggest that persistence of integrated HIV DNA is not a barrier, but on the contrary, may be a prerequisite to HIV cure,” the authors write.

To read the Yahoo News story, click here.

To read the study, click here.