Scientists report a 2nd person has been cured of HIV

A blood test being administered on an individual to check for HIV in Chile on Dec 11 2018

A blood test being administered on an individual to check for HIV in Chile on Dec 11 2018

The patient has not been identified. In both cases, the men had cancer, and were treated with bone marrow from a donor with the CCR5 mutation; CCR5 is a protein that HIV uses to enter certain immune cells. "We can't detect anything", Ravindra Gupta, the doctor who co-lead the man's treatment team, told Reuters.

Gupta and his team emphasised that bone marrow transplant - a unsafe and painful procedure - is not a viable option for HIV treatment.

But a second case of remission and likely cure following such a transplant will help scientists narrow the range of treatment strategies, he and others said.

Nearly 1 million people die annually from HIV-related causes.

Sixteen months after the procedure (which notably didn't include radiotherapy, unlike the Berlin patient), the London patient discontinued ARV drugs (aka ART therapy), and has now been in HIV remission for over 18 months. He was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and started taking drugs to control the infection in 2012. "It's been 10 years since the last success, and I was totally prepared for failure of the graft or return of the lymphoma", he says.

"Even if we're not going to cure the world with stem cell transplants", Johnston says, "it's important to have a collection of people who've been cured so we can put together that information to figure out how we can do a cure more broadly".

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

"The so-called London Patient has now been off ART for 19 months with no viral rebound which is impressive, but I would still be closely monitoring his viral load".

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After the bone marrow transplant, the London patient remained on ARV for 16 months, at which point ARV treatment was stopped. Antibodies to HIV were still present in his blood, but their levels declined over time, in a trajectory similar to that seen in Brown.

Steven Deeks, an HIV researcher at UCSF, says the results could also boost cure efforts to cripple CCR5 "without the need for heroic interventions such as in the Berlin and London cases". They're also impractical to try to cure the millions already infected.

"The second case strengthens the idea that a cure is feasible", Sharon R Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity and the University of Melbourne, told AFP.

A decade after Brown became famous thanks to a stem cell transplant that eliminated his HIV infection, a similar transplant from a donor who has HIV-resistant cells appears to have cured another man, dubbed the "London patient".

A new drug-resistant form of HIV is also a growing concern.

Graham Cooke, a professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London, said in a statement to the Science Media Centre that the new study is "encouraging".

"If we can understand better why the procedure works in some patients and not others, we will be closer to our ultimate goal of curing HIV", said Cooke, who was not involved in the case study. "At the moment the procedure still carries too much risk to be used in patients who are otherwise well, as daily tablet treatment for HIV is able to usually able to maintain patient's long-term health".

Such transplants are risky and have failed in other patients.

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