A Second Person May Be Cured of HIV
A Second Person May Be Cured of HIV.
HIV is a virus that compromises the immune system. In the majority of cases, once HIV infection takes hold, the virus stays in the body for life. However, unlike what may occur with infections by other types of viruses, HIV symptoms don’t suddenly appear and peak overnight.
If left untreated, the disease progresses over time through three stages, each with its own set of possible symptoms and complications — some severe.
But according to recent research, A man in the United Kingdom may be the second person ever to be cured of HIV. The new patient, who was diagnosed with the virus in 2003, appears to be HIV-free after a special bone-marrow transplant, according to a new report of his case.
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The patient — who’s been named “the London patient” — received a bone marrow transplant from a donor who carried a genetic mutation that’s resistant to HIV. Now, nearly 18 months after coming off antiretroviral therapy (ARV), doctors claim that recent highly sensitive tests show no trace of the virus.
The case marks only the second time ever that doctors have used this particular treatment to seemingly eliminate the virus from a person’s body. The first patient — known as the Berlin patient — received a similar bone-marrow transplant in 2007 and has been HIV-free for more than a decade.
“By achieving [HIV] remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we have shown that the Berlin patient was not an anomaly, and that it really was the treatment … that eliminated HIV in these two people,” lead study author Dr. Ravindra Gupta, a professor in the Division of Infection and Immunity at University College London, said in a statement.
Are Bone Marrow Transplants Complicated and Risky?
However, the researchers stress that such a bone-marrow transplant would not work as a standard therapy for all patients with HIV. Such transplants are risky, and both the Berlin patient and the man in the new case, called the London patient, needed the transplants to treat cancer, rather than HIV.
But future therapies could aim to mimic the treatment without the need for a bone-marrow transplant.
The London patient has been off HIV medications for 18 months now, and is still HIV-free, the researchers said. They will continue to monitor the patient to determine if he has been definitively cured (meaning the HIV does not come back).
The new case report is “another proof of concept that we can eradicate HIV in theses situations,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, who was not involved in the report.
Adalja noted that although the Berlin patient and the London patient received similar treatments, the Berlin patient’s treatment was more intense — he received two bone-marrow transplants in addition to whole-body irradiation (radiation exposure to the whole body.
Although a bone-marrow transplant cannot be a standard treatment for HIV, doctors can use what they learn in these special cases to try to develop new treatments that could be used by more people, Adalja said.