Second patient ever in HIV remission after stem cell transplant

The man's doctors found a donor with a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to the HIV virus

The man's doctors found a donor with a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to the HIV virus

The first, Timothy Ray Brown, known as the "Berlin Patient", was reported 12 years ago. Specifically, the donor had two copies of a version of the CCR5 gene.

"We haven't cured HIV, but [this] gives us hope that it's going to be feasible one day to eliminate the virus", she said.

"By achieving remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we have shown that the Berlin patient was not an anomaly", said lead author Ravindra Gupta, a professor at the University of Cambridge, referring to the first known functional cure. CCR5 is known to be a co-receptor for HIV, so mutations in it can help people to become resistant to infection.

One such effort is the IAS Towards an HIV Cure initiative established in 2012 to promote and facilitate the search for a safe and affordable cure that can be scaled up.

The study will also be presented at an HIV conference in Seattle. Even if the CCR5 mutation wasn't extremely rare, you'd still have to match the immunological footprints of the donor and the patient to prevent the bone marrow from reacting badly to the recipient. The patient remained on anti-HIV drugs to prevent the virus from replicating for almost 1.5 years after the transplant; because HIV tends to hide in cells in a dormant phase and reactivate years later, Gupta wanted to be sure that as much of the virus as possible was destroyed with the drugs.

A second person has gone into remission from HIV after receiving a stem cell transplant, doctors have announced.

Both the first patient to be cured of H.I.V., Timothy Ray Brown, who is now 52 and was cured in 2007, and the new patient, whom scientists refer to as the "London patient", were afflicted with forms of cancer and were given bone-marrow transplants meant to treat their cancers, not the H.I.V virus, according to The New York Times.

Gupta, now at Cambridge University, treated the London patient when he was working at University College London.

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The study stated: "Firstly, the bone marrow transplant in both HIV cure cases were primarily used to treat cancers of the blood and were modified to enable a HIV cure". "Some of them are directly related to the Berlin patient and work with transplantation: for example, gene modification therapy".

Using bone marrow transplants to cure HIV in everyone who has the virus, though, remains impractical, expensive, and risky.

Gero Hütter, the German hematologist who treated Timothy Ray Brown, said: "By repeating the procedure in another patient, there is more evidence that the "Berlin patient" is not a sole exception".

Millions of people infected with HIV around the world keep the disease in check with so-called antiretroviral therapy (ARV), but the treatment does not rid patients of the virus.

Specialists said it was not yet clear whether the CCR5 resistance is the only key - or whether the graft-versus-host disease may have been just as important.

But a reservoir of cells carrying HIV can still remain in the body, in a resting state, for many years.

Brown, though, had undergone more severe treatment than the London patient and for a while researchers believed that his near-death experience was key to curing HIV.

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