International Aids Society hails news of HIV free patient

International Aids Society hails news of HIV free patient

Gupta hesitates to call it a cure, but this is the second patient to show no signs of the HIV virus after a similar stem cell transplant.

A nurse (L) hands out a red ribbon to a woman, to mark World Aids Day, at the entrance of Emilio Ribas Hospital, in Sao Paulo December 1, 2014. The "Berlin patient", Timothy Ray Brown, has been HIV-free since 2007 after undergoing a bone marrow transplantation (BMT) to treat his acute myeloid leukaemia, and the London man has been in remission for 18 months after his transplantation for advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Both the London and Berlin patients received stem cell transplants from donors carrying a genetic mutation that prevents expression of an HIV receptor, known as CCR5.

"Secondly, naturally resistant and compatible bone marrow donors are rare because of the need for donor-recipient matching". He was identified with HIV in 2003 and began taking medication to regulate the infection in 2012.

Close to 37 million people are living with HIV worldwide and almost one million people die every year from HIV-related causes. Dr Timothy Henrich, now at the University of California at San Francisco, and colleagues attempted to reproduce Brown's cure in two cancer patients in Boston, but in those cases the donors had normal or "wild-type" stem cells that remained susceptible to HIV, they received less intensive chemotherapy and they stayed on antiretroviral therapy. The transplant destroyed the most cancers without risky unwanted side effects, whereas the transplanted immune cells, that are now proof against H.I.V., appear to have absolutely changed his weak cells, in keeping with the paper.

Before yesterday some researchers had posited a third theory: That it was the intense combination of radiation and chemotherapy ahead of the stem-cell transplant that floored the virus.

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Usually, HIV patients expect to stay on daily pills for life to suppress the virus. Their immune system appears to be successful in controlling the virus, even without drugs. "That is the cure", Deeks told Reuters.

Indeed, some patients have had remission even without a bone-marrow transplant. To some that means a cure; however, as Dr Annemarie Wensing of the University Medical Centre Utrecht, who was quoted by The NYT, said, "We don't have any worldwide agreement on what time without viral rebound is necessary to speak about cure".

"Companies dip their toes in and out of cure research". Both cases involved bone-marrow transplants, though the transplants were meant to treat cancer in the individuals, not HIV. The aim is to get everybody on treatment for the rest of their lives and that's a huge undertaking both for drug delivery but also making sure people can stay on medication for decades. If researchers can find a way to easily manipulate CCR5, perhaps with CRISPR gene editing, they could open up a path for H.I.V. patients to enter remission without undergoing invasive transplants.

One avenue worth exploring is gene therapy. Of these, about 1.1 million live in the U.S. His viral load remains undetectable 18 months later, Gupta reported, and his T cells show no "reactivatable" virus. Animal studies have shown hope, but it has not yet been proven in people.

Medical experts hailed the announcement as confirmation that it is possible to cure HIV, a virtual death sentence before advances in treatment made it manageable.

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