Spanish scientists have hit upon a way to “re-educate” the body’s immune system to repel the HIV virus.

Researchers at Barcelona’s Hospital Clinic, Spain, said they were able to lower the level of the virus in infected patients using a personalised treatment that could replace expensive antiretroviral drug treatment used to keep it at bay.

A group of people with AIDS took part in a clinical trial and after 24 weeks, the majority had shown a “significant” decrease in their viral load, the Journal of Infectious Diseases reports.

“This decrease was very significant in some of them but in no case did the virus become undetectable,” the hospital statement said, according to the Telegraph.

“However, this is a very important improvement with respect to previous initiatives where with a similar vaccine; there was a modest response in 30 percent of the treated patients.

“No therapeutic vaccine has achieved up to now the same level of response as in this study,” the statement added.

The vaccine was made from each person’s own dendritic cells, a special type of cell that is a key regulator of the immune system.

The cells were extracted and “re—educated” to attack the virus using samples of HIV also taken from individual patients. The adjusted cells were then injected back into them in three stages, two weeks apart.

An estimated 33.3 million people worldwide have the HIV virus that causes AIDS, according to the United Nations Aids agency UNAIDS.