Second man cured of HIV

Grant Boone
March 7, 2019

Researchers reportedly say that it is too early, however, to say the patient has been fully cured. "But there a small percentage of people who are naturally resistant to HIV infection due to rare genetic mutations known as CCR5-delta 32", he stressed.

In order to achieve that serendipitous "cure", Brown had to undergo aggressive treatment for his acute myeloid leukemia that involved two hematopoietic stem cell transplantations - in which a patient's bone marrow is damaged - and full body irradiation.

Prof Gupta's case was in an HIV-positive man with advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma who received a transplant of haematopoietic stem cells from a donor with two copies of the so-called CCR5 gene mutation - the same one allegedly edited by Chinese researcher He Jiankui that led to the birth of the world's first gene-edited babies previous year.

Before yesterday some researchers had posited a third theory: That it was the intense combination of radiation and chemotherapy ahead of the stem-cell transplant that floored the virus.

Timothy Brown was cured of HIV over a decade ago. There have been other attempts to discontinue anti-retroviral therapy for HIV-positive bone marrow transplant recipients, but in these cases the patient's virus has come back. Replacing the immune cells with those that do not have the CCR5 receptor appears to help prevent HIV from rebounding after the treatment. With an HIV prevalence of 0.26 per cent in the adult population, India has an estimated 2.1 million people with HIV, shows UNAIDS data.

"If you transplant those cells into someone who already has HIV, you may protect those new cells from infection", he said.

A coloured transmission electron micrograph of the HIV virus (green) attaching to a white blood cell (orange).

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

But he added: The apparent success of this treatment injects new hope in the search for a long-awaited cure'.

As of 2017, there were approximately 36.9 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS. The patient's immune cells remain unable to express the CCR5 receptor.

News that a second person may have been "cured" demonstrates that the Berlin patient was not an anomaly.

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.

They made the announcement at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) being held in Seattle, United States of America. "We speculate that CCR5 gene therapy strategies using stem cells could conceivably be a scalable approach to remission", they said. To some that means a cure; however, as Dr Annemarie Wensing of the University Medical Centre Utrecht, who was quoted by The NYT, said, "We don't have any global agreement on what time without viral rebound is necessary to speak about cure". Two factors are likely at play - the new bone marrow is resistant to HIV and also the new bone marrow is actively eliminating any HIV-infected cells through something called graft versus host disease.

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