Doctors found that a bone marrow transplant has freed an HIV-positive patient from the virus that causes the deadly AIDS disease. While welcoming the results, they warned that it was too early to say he had been completely healed.
Researchers have reported that a man infected with the HIV virus that causes AIDS is in sustained recovery after a bone marrow transplant from an HIV-resistant donor. This makes the man known as the “London Patient” the second person ever to be released from the deadly virus, which affects about 37 million people worldwide.
The treatment and outcome were published in the international science journal Nature and are expected to be officially announced Tuesday at a medical conference in Seattle.
The scientists used the same method that proved successful in 2007 for an HIV-positive patient in Berlin. In both cases, the graft should treat blood cancer.
“By achieving a recovery now in a second patient with a similar approach, we showed that the Berlin patient was not an anomaly,” said lead researcher Ravindra Gupta.
Rare genetic change
Both HIV-positive patients with blood cancer received bone marrow stem cells from donors who have genetic mutations of the HIV receptor known as CCR5, rendering them resistant to the virus. When the infected cells of the patient are replaced by the mutated ones, it appears that HIV does not break again after the treatment.
The “London patient” was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and has been on antiretroviral therapy (ARV) since 2012, suppressing but not eliminating the virus. After being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a deadly cancer, in 2016 he received the bone marrow transplant. He then continued with ARV for 16 more months before stopping the treatment. For 19 months now, he shows no signs of the HIV virus.
“There is no virus we could measure him for. We can not discover anything, “Gupta said. He warned, however, that “it is too early to say he is healed,” instead labeling the patient “virtually healed” and “in recovery.”
The researcher said that this second case of successful treatment for an HIV patient helps to refine the range of treatment strategies, but he emphasized that bone marrow transplants that are dangerous, painful and expensive are not a generally viable option for HIV treatment.
Only 59 percent of people living with HIV worldwide receive ARV. About one million people die each year from HIV infection, and AIDS has killed around 35 million people since its inception in the 1980s.
The “London patient” demanded that his medical team maintain his anonymity.
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