Published: Tue, March 05, 2019
Medical | By Vicki Mclaughlin

London HIV Patient Becomes World’s Second AIDS Cure Hope

London HIV Patient Becomes World’s Second AIDS Cure Hope

But the transplants were meant to treat cancer in the patients, not HIV.

Millions of people infected with HIV around the world keep the disease in check with so-called antiretroviral therapy (ARV), but the treatment does not rid patients of the virus. He received transplant from a donor with a mutation in a protein called CCR5.

"Coming 10 years after the successful report of the Berlin Patient, this new case confirms that bone marrow transplantation from a CCR5-negative donor can eliminate residual virus and stop any traces of virus from rebounding".

This is obviously mind-blowing news, but there's a caveat: most experts agree that it can't be a solution for many HIV patients. The surprise success now confirms that a cure for HIV infection is possible, if hard, researchers said.

The "London patient" told the paper that it was "surreal" and "overwhelming" to learn that he could be cured of H.I.V. and cancer.

Nearly 1 million people die annually from HIV-related causes.

A bone-marrow stem cell transplant has led to a patient with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) going into long-term remission, meaning he might become the second person to be cured of the disease.

Sixteen months after the procedure (which notably didn't include radiotherapy, unlike the Berlin patient), the London patient discontinued ARV drugs (aka ART therapy), and has now been in HIV remission for over 18 months.

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The Berlin patient - treated for leukemia - was given two transplants, and underwent total body irradiation, while the British patient received just one transplant and less intensive chemotherapy.

He received other treatments as well, but by September 2017, he stopped taking anti-HIV drugs and has remained virus free for more than a year, the New York Times reported. The patient was receiving the bone marrow transplant for cancer.

Despite various attempts by scientists using the same approach, Brown had remained the only person cured of HIV until the new London patient. The London patient, in contrast, had a milder regimen that targeted his lymphoma.

Dr. Timothy Henrich, an associate professor of medicine and physician scientist at University of California, San Francisco's Department of Medicine, also noted that the London patient's treatment "is not a scalable, safe or economically viable strategy to induce HIV remission".

Most experts who know the details agree that the new case seems like a legitimate cure, but some are uncertain of its relevance for AIDS treatment overall.

The study describes an anonymous male patient in Britain who was diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003 and has been on antiretroviral therapy since 2012. About one percent of people descended from northern Europeans have inherited the mutation from both parents and are immune to most HIV.

"If we can understand better why the procedure works in some patients and not others, we will be closer to our ultimate goal of curing HIV", said Cooke, who was not involved in the case study.

"At the moment, the only way to treat HIV is with medications that suppress the virus, which people need to take for their entire lives", said Gupta.

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