Medicine

A Second Person May Be Cured of HIV

A Second Person May Be Cured of HIV

The stem cells used for the transplant came from a donor who had a relatively rare genetic mutation that confers resistance to HIV. Specifically, the donor had a mutation in a gene that codes for a protein called CCR5, which HIV uses as a "port" to get inside cells.

The scientists note in their study that the treatment for the second patient was less harsh than the one used for the Berlin patient, raising the possibility that they could develop a less risky procedure for stem-cell transplants for HIV-positive patients.

The anonymous London man was tested by doctors who said the virus was undetected in the man's system even though he has been off of the antiretroviral therapy for 18 months.

The report describes a male patient in the United Kingdom, who prefers to remain anonymous, and was diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003 and on antiretroviral therapy since 2012.

Though there are some differences, the London case mirrors that of the Berlin Patient, Timothy Brown, who has remained free of HIV and off ART since a bone marrow transplant 12 years ago and, until now, was the only adult considered to be cured of HIV. "I've been waiting for company for a long time". There are now 37 million people infected with HIV, 21 million are on antiretroviral treatment, but drug-resistant strains are becoming more widespread.

President Donald Trump extolled the progress made in finding a cure for HIV, as a patient with the virus appears to have been cured by doctors.

In 2016 the patient underwent haematopoietic stem cell transplant and remained on anti-viral drugs for more than a year afterwards.

The Wall Street Journal noted, "Scientists are struggling to find a cure for HIV, a virus notorious for hiding in the body and evading attempts to flush it out". He also naturally had one Δ32 copy, and when similar efforts failed with other patients, there was speculation this, or some other rare feature of Brown's case, was required for success.

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The male patient has achieved "sustained remission" from HIV after being treated at Hammersmith Hospital in west London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust said. "We can't detect anything", HIV biologist Ravindra Gupta - one of the doctors who treated the man - told Reuters.

But there was something unusual about the person who gave the London patient stem cells.

The UK researchers say it may be possible to use gene therapy to target the CCR5 receptor in people with HIV, now they know the Berlin patient's recovery was not a one-off.

Both patients experienced mild graft-versus-host disease, which may also have played a role in the loss of HIV-infected cells.

Following the transplant, the patient's immune system was able to adopt HIV resistance and fight against the disease. Worldwide, an estimated 36.9 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2017. He notes that the Berlin patient and the London patient had similar side effects after the treatment.

"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, posing a particular challenge in developing countries".

Sixteen months after the treatment, he was taken off antiretrovirals.