Medicine

For the Second Time in History, Someone Has Been Cured of HIV

For the Second Time in History, Someone Has Been Cured of HIV

"I'm not sure what this tells us", Dr. Anthony Fauci, who works at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the New York Times.

A London man is believed to be the second person ever to be cured of the HIV virus after he received a bone-marrow transplant, his doctors reported Monday. But if HIV is surrounded by a sea of CCR5-mutated cells that it can't exploit, it's stymied.

Fauci sees the report of the London patient as being less about the possible benefits of bone marrow transplants in treating or even curing HIV, and more about the need to focus HIV research on CCR5.

Gupta said the London patient was "functionally cured" and is in remission, but said it was too early to officially say he is cured. Both men experienced a similar treatment.

The man - who wishes to remain anonymous - was given stem cells from a donor with genetic resistance to the disease and he has now been in long term remission for 18 months without medication.

Gupta, now at Cambridge University, treated the London patient when he was working at University College London. 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. He used antiretroviral drugs for over ten years until he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia. CCR5 is also the gene that Chinese researcher He Jiankui tweaked in embryos to give them a genetically-engineered resistance to HIV infection throughout their lifetimes.

When it comes to the search for an HIV cure, in some ways the urgency has gone. The London patient, in contrast, had a milder regimen that targeted his lymphoma. "We are being cautious" to call it remission for now, he said.

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"And maybe that's what's happening here - the graft is eliminating any residual HIV", Lewin said.

To learn more about the factors that favor a cure, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, a New York City-based foundation, in 2014 began to fund a consortium of global researchers who do transplants in HIV-infected people with blood cancers. The new patient had none of this HIV variant, which probably contributed to the success of this treatment.

Calling the London patient "cured" is tricky, Gupta said, because there is no standard definition for how long someone must remain free of virus and off treatment drugs. "Durable engraftment" of the CCR5 mutants is key to a cure, he concludes.

Does this mean HIV has been cured?

"That could be a fantastic way forward", Johnston says. This mutation of the CCR5 gene makes the people who carry it resistant to HIV.

A color-enhanced scanning electron micrograph shows HIV particles (orange) infecting a T cell, one of the white blood cells that play a central role in the immune system.

Finally here is some good news for all the HIV positive patients living their lives in horror. Today, researchers are reporting the second instance in which the transplantation of stem cells carrying this mutation has seemingly eliminated a viral infection. "I did a little happy dance when I read the paper", she says.


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