Only a second person in the world diagnosed with the most common type of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) might have been cured of the infection after receiving a stem cell transplant, CNN reported, citing a study.
Nearly three years after receiving bone marrow stem cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resistsHIV infection - and more than 18 months after he came off antiretroviral drugs - highly sensitive tests still show no trace of the man's previous HIV infection.
Gupta explained the patient had not been taking anti-retroviral drugs for over 18 months at the time of testing after he received stem cells from HIV-resistance donor. Highly sensitive tests showed no trace of the man's previous HIV infection.
That was "an improbable event", said lead researcher Ravindra Gupta of University College London. Though they are calling it a "cure" in some public statements, the New York Times reports that in writing, and the forthcoming publication in science journal Nature, it will be referred to as "long-term remission".
"We can try to tease out which part of the transplant might have made a difference here, and allowed this man to stop his anti-viral drugs". Brown, who required two transplants to cure his leukemia, had intensive chemical treatment and, on top of that, received whole body irradiation. Treatment for HIV involves medications that suppress the virus, known as antiretroviral therapy, which people with HIV need to take for their entire lives.
His doctors found a donor with a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV. The patient, who chose to be anonymous, was cured after a stem cell transplant.
Professor Gupta, now at Cambridge University, treated the patient in the United Kingdom capital when he was working at University College London. His donor had a genetic mutation called CCR5 delta 2, which is resistant to HIV infection.
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The London patient has answered that question: A near-death experience is not required for the procedure to work.
Gupta and his team emphasized that bone marrow transplant - a risky and painful procedure - is not a viable option for HIV treatment.
But a very small number of people who are resistant to HIV have two mutated copies of the CCR5 receptor.
With the right kind of donor, his doctors figured, the London patient might get a bonus beyond treating his cancer: a possible HIV cure. The London patient is one of 40 in the study. "I never thought that there would be a cure during my lifetime".
The research team is presenting the findings at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle, Washington. "There are similarities with the Berlin Patient case, but there are also differences".
Most experts say it is unlikely such treatments could be a way of curing all patients. "I did a little happy dance when I read the paper", she says.
Scientists are also examining immune modifying therapies.