Second HIV Patient is in Remission, Cure May Be Discovered Soon

HIV virus

HIV virus

Like Timothy Ray Brown, the first person to have been cured of HIV, the London patient required a bone marrow transplant to treat cancer.

Here's what to know about the landmark case.

Timothy Brown also known as The Berlin Patient.

Pozniak was commenting in the aftermath of the news that a London patient appears to have been cured of HIV after a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a special genetic mutation. To do this in others, exact match donors would have to be found in the tiny proportion of people - majority of northern European descent - who have the CCR5 mutation that makes them resistant to the virus. This indicates that other patients, in the same circumstances, should, where possible, receive transplants from a donor with this same gene mutation.

"The Berlin patient also had two rounds of chemotherapy because the first one didn't work". Brown and the London patient also suffered from graft-versus-host disease as the transplanted immune systems attacked other recipient tissues as foreign.

The patient agreed to stop taking HIV drugs to see if the virus would return.

But they are sometimes used for treating specific cancers that affect blood or immune cells, especially if chemotherapy has failed. Brown was only treated this way because his prospects were so dire otherwise. "Is that a cure?".

The "London patient", who has asked to remain anonymous, was diagnosed with HIV in 2003.

The case is the only the second reported example of an adult apparently becoming free of HIV infection. "I never thought that there would be a cure during my lifetime", he wrote. "It can't grow, it can't replicate, it can't spread - it can't cause any problems". Scientists are following 38 people with HIV who've received transplants.

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Advancements in antiretroviral drugs have greatly increased the life expectancy of people diagnosed with HIV in recent years.

Could the patient's HIV come back?

CCR5 is the most commonly used receptor by HIV-1, the most common and most harmful type of HIV. But the virus can't attach itself to the mutated form. The new patient had none of this HIV variant, which probably contributed to the success of this treatment. The London patient, in contrast, had a milder regimen that targeted his lymphoma.

Though modern antiretroviral drugs are effective, prescribed regimens are lifelong, and not all communities worldwide have access to treatment.

The findings will be presented later Tuesday at a medical conference in Seattle, Washington.

On the whole, though, bone marrow transplants remain risky and expensive, and, apart from the two aforementioned patients, have a poor track record of clearing HIV from the system, despite numerous attempts.

Several so-called "Boston patients" received stem cell transplants with functioning CCR5 genes and showed marked improvements, going months without treatment. "We're fortunate now in that we can have many patients treated with one pill, once a day".

Although Brown almost died after he was given strong immunosuppressive drugs and was put into a coma, the "London patient" did not come that close; he suffered from Hodgkin's lymphoma and received a similar bone-marrow transplant to Brown's, but the immunosuppressive drugs he received were gentler.

Still, Fauci is hopeful that such approaches will eventually be available for HIV patients. "After 2 years, we'll be talking more about 'cure, '" Gupta says. "So while it's truly aspirational, I wouldn't say it's out of the realm of possibility". "After a ten year gap it provides important confirmation that the "Berlin patient" was not simply an anomaly".

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