March 24, 2019

Scientists report a 2nd person has been cured of HIV

06 March 2019, 01:45 | Silvia Roy

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'Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the "Berlin patient," was the first person to be cured of HIV infection. Luckily for him, his donor had a mutation in a gene called CCR5, which is linked with some people having a natural resistance to HIV.

"We haven't cured HIV, but [this] gives us hope that it's going to be feasible one day to eliminate the virus", she said.

Dr. Ravindra Gupta, a HIV biologist who co-led the team of doctors who treated the patient, has described him as "functionally cured" and "in remission".

The breakthrough came from an incredibly rare genetic mutation.

"Until then, the emphasis needs to remain on prompt diagnosis of HIV and initiation of life-long combination antiretroviral therapy", Freedman said in a statement. The investigators plan to publish their report on Tuesday in the journal Nature and are to present some of the details at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, the Times reported.

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Adalja noted that although the Berlin patient and the London patient received similar treatments, the Berlin patient's treatment was more intense - he received two bone-marrow transplants in addition to whole-body irradiation (radiation exposure to the whole body).

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Only one other patient who has been cured from HIV is Timothy Ray Brown from Berlin. 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.

The London, U.K. patient has not been identified. In 2012, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma, a type of blood cancer that required treatment with a bone-marrow transplant, also known as hematopoietic stem cell transplant.

Compared to Brown, the London patient had a less punishing form of chemotherapy to get ready for the transplant, didn't have radiation and had only a mild reaction to the transplant.

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Nevertheless, the researchers are clear: "At 18 months post-treatment interruption it is premature to conclude that this patient has been cured".

Scientists are looking at finding a way to inject a patient with modified immune cells that can resist the HIV virus.

Only 59 percent of the 37 million people worldwide infected with HIV receive antiretroviral therapy (ARV) while about 35 million people have been killed since its outbreak in the 1980s. "While more than 21 million take drugs that keep them alive and reduce the spread, an estimated 1.8 million people were newly infected in 2017".

The patient, who prefers to remain anonymous, remains HIV-free to date. So far, 38 people living with HIV have received bone marrow transplants from one of these donors, and their progress is being tracked. The new patient, treated by doctors in Europe and nicknamed "the London patient" for anonymity, mirrors a similar case from over a decade ago, which scientists have spent years trying to replicate.

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