London Patient cleared of HIV raises hope for cure

The man's doctors found a donor with a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to the HIV virus

123rfThe man's doctors found a donor with a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to the HIV virus

Nearly three years after receiving bone marrow stem cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resistsHIV infection - and more than 18 months after he came off antiretroviral drugs - highly sensitive tests still show no trace of the man's previous HIV infection.

Several patients who have received such transplants since Brown's successful treatment have died of the underlying cancer, several HIV researchers noted.

The IAS welcomed the announcement saying that the man has remained in HIV remission and off antiretroviral therapy (ART) 19 months after receiving a bone marrow transplant from a CCR5 negative donor for Hodgkin's lymphoma.

After examining over and over the "London patient's" blood to look for H.I.V., the scientists could not find any circulating virus.

Scientists have inched closer to finding the real cure for HIV/AIDS after another man who was until recently HIV-positive was successfully cured of the disease in Britain.

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He later developed cancer and agreed to undergo a bone-marrow transplant for treatment.

For the London patient, Gupta and his team also found a donor who had these mutations in CCR5.

HIV is one of the most deadliest viruses in the world.

The second person, dubbed "The London Patient", was treated by specialists at the University College London and Imperial College in 2016 and has shown no sign of the virus since. Exact match donors would have to be found in the tiny proportion of people - majority of northern European descent - who have the CCR5 mutation. The CCR5 is a critical protein that must be present for HIV to be able to enter and infect cells.

Although the finding is exciting, it is not offering up a new treatment for the millions of people around the world living with HIV. 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. African pastors and traditional healers have for many years claimed that they can cure HIV and have paraded patients who claim to have been healed, a statement that has been refuted by medical practitioners.

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For this reason, he's often described as being the first patient "cured" of HIV, although technically that's incorrect, since remission and cures are not the same thing (as sometimes remissions are not complete, if the viral load stages a resurgence).

In the only other known case, Timothy Ray Brown of the US became HIV-free after a stem cell transplant in Germany 12 years ago and is still free of the virus. But such transplants are risky, can not be used widely and have failed in other patients.

Since the Berlin patient, "cure" and not just treatment has become a topic in HIV research, said Hütter: "This new case supports the idea to seek an HIV cure". At one point during his treatment, the Berlin patient almost died and had to be placed in an induced coma. Currently, there are powerful and effective drugs available to control HIV infection with few or no side-effects.

But researchers do hope that shutting down the CCR5 gene could offer a way to cure HIV in adults who are infected. "The hope is that this will eventually lead to a safe, cost-effective and easy strategy to achieve these results using gene technology or antibody techniques". He was then treated with radiation and chemotherapy in order to erase his immune system so it could be reconstituted with donated stem cells taken from a donor who was immune to HIV.

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