Second HIV Patient Reportedly 'Cured'

Katie Ramirez
March 12, 2020

A second man with HIV has been cured of the infection after receiving a transplant of stem cells from a donor who has an HIV resistance mutation.

The London patient, Adam Castillejo, 40, revealed his identity Tuesday to the New York Times. They performed a bone marrow transplant to beat the cancer, but it failed to cure the patient from HIV infection.

Later that year, he was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a deadly cancer.

According to the authors, the patient underwent "successful" stem cell transplantation from donors with a HIV-resistant gene.

The so-called "Berlin patient" was the first HIV patient to be reported cured of the virus three and half years after undergoing similar treatment, in 2011. The researchers also pointed out that both Castillejo and Brown needed the stem cell transplant to treat cancer, rather than for HIV.

However, the experts have clarified that such a bone marrow transplant might not work as standard therapy for all HIV patients.

Another patient in London, UK, is now cured of HIV, doctors have claimed.

But there are important lessons to be learned from the men cured of HIV infection in this way.

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He's now come out in the open to speak about it because, while he was pronounced as cured in the media a year ago, doctors had been hesitant to use the word instead favouring "remission", but doctors are more certain that he is virus-free.

"The London and Berlin patients are examples of using the CCR5 gene in curative therapies outside of gene editing", said co-author Dimitra Peppa, of the University of Oxford in England. The transplant from this donor included the possibility of treating both cancer and HIV.

"After 2.5 years off antiretrovirals and lack of evidence for any active virus, this nearly certainly represents cure", Gupta told the Bay Area Reporter.

"People get really excited because they say it's a HIV cure", she says, "but the exciting thing is that it's opened the way for different ways of thinking of an HIV cure".

Now Castillejo has made a decision to reveal his identity because he wants his case to be a cause for optimism. However, they did find "remnants" of HIV's DNA in some cells. Doctors theorize that whatever HIV was left hiding in their systems after the treatment wilted away because it had nowhere left to spread.

Most HIV patients can manage the treatment of the virus with drugs available today, and live long and healthy lives. But researchers are working on ways to mimic the same effect using gene therapy to delete CCR5 receptors from T cells or stem cells that give rise to all immune cells. He added that he wants to be an ambassador of hope.

"There will probably be more but they will take time", he said. "The additional data provided in this follow up case report is certainly encouraging but unfortunately in the end, only time will tell".

He told the New York Times: "This is a unique position to be in, a unique and very humbling position". "This is not a treatment that would be offered widely to patients with HIV".

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