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'London Patient' Appears to Become the Second Person Ever Cured of AIDS
10 March 2019, 02:58 | Silvia Roy
BREAKTHROUGH Doctors say they are hopeful the patient is cured
Extensive testing showed no viral DNA in his bone marrow, gut tissue samples rectal tissue samples or lymph nodes. The man stopped taking antiretroviral drugs 18 months ago.
The new case "shows the cure of Timothy Brown was not a fluke and can be recreated", Dr. Keith Jerome, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told the AP. The problems cleared up without intervention, though, and the patient was left with immune cells that lacked the protein used by HIV.
The report describes a male patient in the United Kingdom, who prefers to remain anonymous, and was diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003 and on antiretroviral therapy since 2012.
A person with HIV from Britain appears to be free of the virus after receiving a stem-cell transplant.
The first sustained remission survivor, announced in 2009 as "the Berlin patient" and later named as American Timothy Brown, was given two transplants and underwent total body irradiation to treat leukaemia - a process that almost killed him.
Though the experts are excited with results, they remained conservative about the current capabilities of replicating the "cure" since tens of millions of people affected by HIV worldwide.
Still, CCR5 is not the only gateway for HIV: Some strains are able to bypass this molecule entirely on their way into cells.
Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the HIV/AIDS division at the National Institutes of Health, told the Daily Mail, we shouldn't expect this type of treatment to become the stock standard for people wanting a cure. They will continue to monitor the patient to determine if he has been definitively cured (meaning the HIV does not come back).
Understanding how the body can naturally resist the infection does offer up hope of this, even if it is still a long way off.
Following the announcement, doctors not involved in the case said it was a step forward toward finding new treatments for HIV. People with two copies of the Δ32 mutation of CCR5 gene are resistant to HIV-1 infection.
But the current news "does teach us a great deal about the HIV virus and how we can possibly create other ways to eradicate it", says Dr. Rosenthal. That's key because HIV uses that receptor to gain entry into the cells.
The London Patient was given stem cells from a donor with genetic resistance to the disease.
"This is the most reliable assay there is to demonstrate that there really are no hidden reservoirs of HIV that might be temporarily "sleeping" and might reactivate at a later date", said Professor Lever.
But a second instance of remission and likely cure following such a transplant will help scientists narrow the range of treatment strategies, he and others said. Thanks to patients like this, we may have a better sense of how to ensure the benefits of the transplant include the elimination of HIV.
The benefits of this treatment outweigh the risk for cancer patients, which is where it is most commonly used.
Dr Andrew Freedman, reader in infectious diseases and honorary consultant physician at Cardiff University, said it was an "interesting and potentially significant report". The unidentified individual has not needed antiretroviral drugs since September 2017.
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