Published: Tue, March 05, 2019
Health Care | By Cedric Leonard

Second man seems to be free of AIDS virus after transplant

Second man seems to be free of AIDS virus after transplant

Publicly, the scientists are describing the case as a long-term "remission". So far, there are only two known instances of a reported cure.

"A bone-marrow transplantation as a cure is not viable".

He later developed cancer and agreed to undergo a bone-marrow transplant for treatment. He was diagnosed with HIV in 2003.

"HIV is a retrovirus, which means that it integrates its genetic information into a host cell's own DNA".

"This will inspire people that cure is not a dream", said Dr. Annemarie Wensing, a virologist at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands.

A London man appears to be free of the AIDS virus after a stem cell transplant - marking a potential milestone breakthrough, 12 years after the first success. The consortium is supported by AMFAR, the American AIDS research organization. However, because HIV remained undetectable, he is still considered clinically cured of his infection, according to his doctors.

"I never thought that there would be a cure during my lifetime", he said.

That news, displayed on a poster at the back of a conference room, initially gained little attention.

Scientists who have studied the London patient are expected to publish a report Tuesday in the journal Nature. There is still no trace of the virus after 18 months off the drugs. His donor had a genetic mutation called CCR5 delta 2, which is resistant to HIV infection. He was placed in an induced coma at one point and almost died.

To test whether he was truly in HIV-1 remission, the London patient disrupted his usual antiretroviral therapy.

The transplant changed the London patient's immune system, giving him the donor's mutation and HIV resistance. Scientific research into the complex virus has in recent years led to the development of drug combinations that can keep it at bay in most patients.

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That was "an improbable event", said lead researcher Ravindra Gupta of University College London. "We need to understand if we could knock out this (CCR5) receptor in people with HIV, which may be possible with gene therapy", he said.

Compared to Brown, the London patient had a less punishing form of chemotherapy to get ready for the transplant, didn't have radiation and had only a mild reaction to the transplant. About one percent of people descended from northern Europeans have inherited the mutation from both parents and are immune to most HIV. IciStem maintains a database of about 22,000 such donors.

However, bone-marrow transplants are traditionally risky and painful.

The London patient is 36 on this list.

This is the second time a patient treated this way has ended up in remission from HIV.

HIV is one of the most deadliest viruses in the world. Antibodies to HIV were still present in his blood, but their levels declined over time, in a trajectory similar to that seen in Brown.

"In a way, the only person to compare with directly is the Berlin patient", he said.

Most experts say it is unlikely such treatments could be a way of curing all patients.

"I am an optimist because I'm a scientist and vice versa", Henrich said.

Timothy Ray Brown's HIV cure may no longer be unique.

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