London Patient Might be Second-Ever Cured of HIV

London Patient Might be Second-Ever Cured of HIV

In 2003, the male patient was diagnosed with HIV infection and developed an Aids defining cancer, advanced Hodgkin's Lymphoma, in 2012. Again, the procedure was meant to treat Hodgkin's lymphoma, not HIV/AIDS.

In 2016 the patient underwent haematopoietic stem cell transplant and remained on anti-viral drugs for more than a year afterwards. 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 new patient also tells us that we don't necessarily have to be that aggressive when wiping out a person's immune system prior to the transplant. The bone marrow donor turned out to have a mutation that prevented HIV from digging in.

Now, an worldwide team of scientists led by Ravindra Gupta, a virologist at the University College London, reports a second patient has been in remission for three years following a similar procedure.

Achieving remission in a second patient with HIV using similar methods demonstrated that the first occurrence was not anomalous.

Any story about an HIV cure is bound to stir excitement. "Is that a cure?"

The case is the only the second reported example of an adult apparently becoming free of HIV infection.

This means the virus can not penetrate cells in the body that it normally infects.

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Dr. Ravindra Gupta, who presented the findings at the Seattle meeting, said, "I think this does change the game a little bit". "It may persist there for quite some time, but who cares?"

For now, the patient has chosen to remain anonymous and he's being called the "London Patient". But HIV drugs have become so effective that many people carrying this infection have a normal lifespan if they take these medications for a lifetime.

"Common to both approaches is the presence of a modified gene in our immune system - CCR5 - that is necessary for HIV infection", Kelleher said in a statement.

Now, the London patient is proof that a near-death experience isn't necessarily part of the process. Traces of HIV were seen in Brown's blood a few years after he stopped antiretroviral therapy. The longer treatment is delayed, the greater the chance that HIV can also mutate to use CXCR4 and CCR5 to infect cells. Partly for that reason, doctors have not considered this a viable option for HIV/AIDS patients.

Gupta and his team emphasized that bone marrow transplant - a unsafe and painful procedure - is not a viable option for HIV treatment. Almost one million people die annually from HIV-related causes.

Bone marrow transplant is a high-risk, life-threatening procedure. The stem cells came from a donor who carried a rare gene mutation that confers resistance to HIV - and doctors were banking on that benefit being transferred to their patient.

The researchers caution that the approach is not appropriate as a standard HIV treatment due to the toxicity of chemotherapy, but it offers hope for new treatment strategies that might eliminate HIV altogether. So far, 38 people living with HIV have received bone marrow transplants from one of these donors, and their progress is being tracked.

However, future investigation into how the CCR5 receptor functions could pave the way for an eventual HIV cure.

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