Second HIV Remission Patient Rekindles Hope Of Cure

Second HIV Remission Patient Rekindles Hope Of Cure

In just the second case ever, an HIV-positive adult has been cleared of the virus.

A London man infected with HIV has gone into long-term remission after getting a special stem cell transplant that not only treated his cancer, but also sent the virus into remission as well.

"It is a landmark". "This was really his last chance of survival", Gupta told Reuters in an interview.

Scientists are hailing this as a triumph that may very well lead to a mainstream cure down the line, but they caution that this exact treatment is unlikely to have widespread applications. "The barrier to curing HIV is a population of infected cells, which despite people being on anti-viral therapy - persists for their entire life", said Dr. Schiffer.

However, there are also growing concerns regarding current treatments.

The first was 12 years ago with Timothy Ray Brown, a Seattle man who's been free of HIV since 2007.

"There are a number of learning points here", he said. However, the search for a real cure has continued, partly because of the need in low-income countries where access to drug therapy is less secure and drug-resistant strains of the virus are a major problem.

This case comes 10 years after the first case, known as "Berlin Patient".

Not coincidentally, the stem cells that both patients received in the transplant came from donors with a double set of this rare CCR5 mutation.

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But Gupta describes the London Patient as "Functionally Cured" and added that it is too early to say that he is cured. He was later diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma, cancer of the immune system.

The donor has two mutated copies of the CCR5 Δ32 allele, so the person is resistant to the HIV-1 virus strain that uses the CCR5 receptor since the virus can not enter the host cells. For instance, combination therapy has been introduced in South Africa for as little as $10 per patient per month, but a similar treatment might cost over $20,000 in the U.S., and countries that need the treatment the most are least able to afford it.

"We know that CCR5 can be knocked out without any serious consequences because people are walking around without that gene". This still-experimental approach would involve taking the machinery needed to produce cells with the desirable double mutation and ferrying it into a patient with the help of a virus.

Experts cautiously welcomed Tuesday's announcement. The patient's name, nationality or age has not been made public.

Dr. Sharon Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and a professor of medicine at the University of Melbourne, said the long remission seen in the London patient is "exciting".

Such transplants are unsafe and have failed in other patients. When HIV-infected individuals are compliant with the prescribed use of the AIDS cocktail, their viral load is undetectable and they become untransmittable, meaning they can not sexually transmit the HIV virus to others.

But scientists were keen to stress that the technique is likely only viable among a tiny percentage of sufferers.

In the decade between the two successful cases there were other similar operations, but the patients died of cancer before it could be determined if Brown's case was an aberration.

"However, this work has the potential to stimulate research into more generally applicable therapies".

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