World's second man cleared of AIDS virus invigorates quest for cure

Faith Castro
March 7, 2019

A research paper led by UCL and Imperial College London has reported that a patient treated with stem cell transplant has been in remission from HIV for 18 months and is no longer taking HIV drugs. In 2016, he underwent hematopoietic stem cell transplant from a donor who happens to have a genetic mutation that prevents expression of the HIV receptor CCR5.

Gupta described his patient as "functionally cured" and "in remission", but he gave a caution: "It's too early to say he's cured".

"Coming 10 years after the successful report of the Berlin Patient, this new case confirms that bone marrow transplantation from a CCR5-negative donor can eliminate residual virus and stop any traces of virus from rebounding". This gene codes for a receptor which sits on the surface of white blood cells involved in the body's immune response.

"Firstly, the bone marrow transplant in both HIV cure cases were primarily used to treat cancers of the blood and were modified to enable a HIV cure". The "Berlin patient", Timothy Ray Brown, has been HIV-free since 2007 after undergoing a bone marrow transplantation (BMT) to treat his acute myeloid leukaemia, and the London man has been in remission for 18 months after his transplantation for advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma.

A man in London, England is now free of HIV/AIDS after stem cell transplant therapy.

"In Kenya, we have the ongoing HIV vaccine trials, and we look forward to the announcement of preliminary results in the next two to three years", he told People Daily after news of the London achievement dominated news wires across the globe yesterday.

"If you transplant those cells into someone who already has HIV, you may protect those new cells from infection", he said. But she said his was also an unusual circumstance. and that the treatment is not practical for her patients with HIV. In all other attempts, the virus had come back after the patient stopped anti-HIV medication.

More news: 'London patient’s' HIV remission brings hope to millions

"Whilst this type of treatment is clearly not practical for millions of people around the world living with HIV, reports such as this may help in the ultimate development of a cure", said Andrew Freedman, a reader in infectious diseases at Cardiff University in Wales.

Globally, 36.9 million people were living with HIV in 2017. In people who have the CCR5 mutation, the virus is unable to enter cells and thus can not cause infection.

It's thought to be a landmark moment in the quest of a widespread cure, which could pave the way for future therapies and studies.

But such transplants are complex, expensive and highly risky to the patients, who would run a risk of dying in the process.

The two cases have now been presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle. In fact, those with this mutation are immune to HIV.

The new patient, who was treated...

The London breakthrough offers hope for a potential cure using gene manipulation and antibody technology to develop next generation therapeutics for an infection on which at least half a trillion dollars (US $562.6 billion) have been spent worldwide between 2000 and 2015.

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