'London patient' cured of HIV reveals identity for the first time

Katie Ramirez
March 14, 2020

In a paper published Tuesday in the journal Lancet HIV, researchers revealed that Castillejo remains cancer-free 46 months after his transplant, as no detectable active virus has been found in a range of his tissues and bodily fluids, including his cerebrospinal fluid, gut, sperm or lymph nodes.

The previous and first-ever patient cured of HIV, Timothy Brown, who is known as 'Berlin patient, ' also received a similar bone marrow transplant in 2007 and lives an HIV-free life since then.

Currently, antiretroviral therapy (ART) is the treatment approved for HIV, but it can not get rid of the virus completely.

Four years later, he underwent bone marrow transplant to treat cancer and received stem cells from donors with a genetic mutation which prevents HIV from taking hold, News24 mentioned.

University of Cambridge lead researcher Prof Ravindra Kumar Gupta told BBC News "This represents HIV cure with nearly certainty".

The so-called "London Patient", a cancer sufferer originally from Venezuela, made headlines a year ago when researchers at the University of Cambridge reported they had found no trace of the AIDS-causing virus in his blood for 18 months. He had been diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and had been receiving medicinal treatment to control the disease since 2012.

"We will need more than a handful of patients cured of HIV to really understand the duration of follow-up needed and the likelihood of an unexpected late rebound in virus replication", they write. "I want to be an ambassador of hope".

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"Therefore, this is not a treatment that would be offered widely to patients with HIV who are on successful anti-retroviral treatment".

The patient in this study (the "London patient") received a stem cell transplant and a reduced-intensity chemotherapy drug regimen, without whole-body irradiation. The goal of stem cell transplantation, in this case, is to make the virus unable to replicate in the patient's body by replacing their immune cells with those of the donor, as body irradiation and chemotherapy targets any residual HIV virus. Some bits of HIV genetic material were detected in long-lived memory T cells, but Gupta said these are probably "fossils" that can not trigger active viral replication.

'We've tested a sizeable set of sites that HIV likes to hide in and they are all pretty much negative for an active virus'.
Wensing is also co-leader of IciStem, a group of scientists studying stem cell transplants to treat HIV.

While the treatment is high-risk and only suitable for certain patients, the researchers said the results provide evidence that Mr Castillejo is the second patient to be cured of the virus, more than a decade after the first person was declared free from HIV in Germany.

Most HIV patients can manage the treatment of the virus with drugs available today, and live long and healthy lives.

Within the sphere of ethical research, gene-editing specialist Sangamo has an early clinical-stage programme looking at editing autologous (patient-derived) stem cells and T cells to carry the CCR5Δ32 mutation.

However, he was not cured by the HIV drugs alone. "I don't want people to think: & # 39; Oh, you & # 39; were selected".

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