Similar therapy has been successful once before with "Berlin Patient", a U.S. man treated in Germany 12 years ago who is still free of HIV.
That's too soon to say he's been fully cured, the scientists warn, but it's nonetheless a hugely promising step that teaches us more about how the Berlin and London patients are keeping HIV at bay. The first, the Berlin Patient, also received a stem cell transplant from a donor with two of the CCR5 alleles, but to treat leukaemia. Researchers extensively tested his blood, gut, brain and other tissues, finding no evidence of replication-competent HIV anywhere in his body.
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Gupta's patient, a male resident of the United Kingdom who prefers to remain anonymous, was diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003 and began antiretroviral therapy in 2012.
Researchers are developing better antiretroviral treatments, prevention methods, and vaccines to halt infections while continuing to pursue a cure for those already infected.
The researcher added that while the stem cell transplant technique was not a universal treatment for everyone, it could contribute to the development of other methods that would help to eliminate the virus in people's bodies. Four years later, doctors gave him a bone marrow transplant, and luckily for him, his donor for the marrow had natural immunity to HIV.
That patient's disease was sent into permanent remission using treatment described as aggressive and toxic.
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 case report has been published in Nature.
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Today, people with HIV are able to live essentially virus-free with a minimally disruptive regimen of pills.
Ravindra Gupta and his colleagues write, "it is premature to conclude that this patient has been cured", but they are hopeful that will prove to be the case.
"We've always wondered whether all that conditioning, a massive amount of destruction to his immune system, explained why Timothy was cured but no one else", AIDS expert Dr. Steven Deeks, who has worked with Brown medically, told NYT.
Mr Brown hopes that the London patient's cure proves as durable as his own, NYT reported.
It may have been 12 years since the famous 'Berlin patient' made history by becoming the first person to sustain HIV-1 remission without receiving anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs, but the newly announced case of an anonymous male British patient demonstrates the first result was not unique.
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But replacing immune cells with those that do not have the CCR5 receptor appears to be key in preventing HIV from rebounding after the treatment.