HIV cure: British patient becomes second person to beat virus

Wayne CurryMar 06, 2019

The stem cells used for the transplant came from a donor who had a relatively rare genetic mutation that confers resistance to HIV. Brown received two bone-marrow transplants from a donor with a mutation in a protein called CCR5.

12 years ago, there was Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the Berlin patient.

Professor Gupta described his patient as "functionally cured" and "in remission", but cautioned: "It's too early to say he's cured". The Guardina Newspaper in United Kingdom also reported that a London patient with HIV has become the second person ever to be free of the virus after a bone marrow transplant, raising hopes of a cure for Aids.

Stem cell transplants are known to be hard on the body, starting with radiation or chemotherapy to damage the existing immune system and make room for a new one.

In both instances, the HIV-infected patient was treated using bone-marrow transplants that were actually created to treat cancer patients and not HIV. Then, in 2012 the unidentified patient was diagnosed with a cancer, Hodgkin lymphoma.

The case was published online Monday by the journal Nature and will be presented at an HIV conference in Seattle.

But a reservoir of cells carrying HIV can still remain in the body, in a resting state, for many years.

A second person has gone into remission from HIV after receiving a stem cell transplant, doctors have announced. To do this in others, exact match donors would have to be found in the tiny proportion of people - majority of northern European descent - who have the CCR5 mutation that makes them resistant to the virus.

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AIDS virus now affects some 37 million people globally. In a celebratory tone on Tuesday Trump said, "HIV Is Cured In 2nd Patient, Doctors Report".

But it in the past 18 months he was taken off the extra drugs and regular testing confirmed his viral load is now undetectable.

The only other person to successfully undergo the experimental bone marrow transplant procedure is American Timothy Brown, who is still HIV-free after his treatment in 2007. The vast majority of HIV strains use normal copies of this gene to gain entry to a patient's immune-system cells, WSJ said. "Everybody believed after the Berlin patient that you needed to almost die basically to cure HIV, but now maybe you don't". Numerous attempts to replicate the procedure have not been successful until now, with the latest case dubbed that of the "London patient".

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".

"It's not a practical solution" for people who don't have diseases that require a stem-cell transplant, said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institutes of Health arm that leads HIV research, according to WSJ.

"CCR5 is something essential for the virus to complete its life-cycle and we can't knock out many other things without causing harm to the patient", said Gupta.

"I think this does change the game a little bit", Gupta opined to NYT of the new patient, who had less invasive treatment than Brown.

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