Second Patient 'Cured' of HIV, Doctors Say

Desiree Burns
March 7, 2019

In 2016, doctors were able to successfully track down a donor with a rare genetic mutation - known as CCR5 delta 32 - which makes him resistant to HIV. Brown had received two similar transplants to treat his leukemia; his donors were intentionally chosen because they not only matched him, but they also harbored genetic mutations that made their cells almost impervious to HIV infection.

Researchers at the University College of London and the Imperial College London report that the patient has been in remission for 18 months after discontinuation of antiretroviral therapy (ART), documented by regular testing of the patient's viral load.

Since American Timothy Brown became the first patient cured of HIV more than a decade ago, there have been three main theories as to how the cancer treatment he and the anonymous London patient underwent managed to unseat HIV in their bodies.

In 2012, he was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin's Lymphoma.

Researchers are inching closer to a possible cure for HIV as a second patient was declared HIV-free after undergoing a bone marrow transplant.

The male patient has achieved "sustained remission" from HIV after being treated at Hammersmith Hospital in west London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust said. "It is too early to say he is cured", he told The Guardian.

"If you are saying that bone marrow transplants are now going to be a viable way to cure large numbers of people with HIV in a scalable way, the answer to that is absolutely not", says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

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).

Ravindra Gupta, a professor and HIV biologist, took charge of the team of doctors treating the man in question.

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Experts who study AIDS say the success of the Berlin patient and the London patient is very important.

The only other time a patient was "cured" of HIV/AIDS was 12 years ago, in 2007.

The study is to be published Tuesday in the journal Nature. Scientists are following 38 people with HIV who've received transplants. Replacing immune cells with those that don't have the CCR5 receptor appears to be key in preventing HIV from rebounding after the treatment.

The first man called the "Berlin patient" was later revealed to be Timothy Ray Brown, the Washington Post reported.

Chemotherapy can be effective against HIV as it kills cells that are dividing. He is being called "the London patient" because he was treated in the British capital.

Computer illustration of a human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) particle.

However, medical experts warned the news does not mean all HIV patients can be cured from their disease.

To test whether he was truly in HIV-1 remission, the London patient disrupted his usual antiretroviral therapy. About 1 percent of people descended from northern Europeans have inherited the mutation from both parents and are immune to most HIV.

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