This is the second time a patient treated this way has ended up in remission from HIV.
"It's very important that the [Berlin case] can be replicated", said Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem, co-director of the defeatHIV research group at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, in Seattle.
It was only in 2016 that he was able to access the stem cell donation because he was seeking treatment for the cancer, not the HIB.
Although the finding is exciting, it is not offering up a new treatment for the millions of people around the world living with HIV. Yet Brown's case remained the lone success since then.
The man, who was not identified, was diagnosed with HIV - the virus that causes AIDS - in 2003, according to the findings published by the journal Nature. 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 donor had a genetic mutation called CCR5 delta 2, which is resistant to HIV infection. Drug-resistant HIV is a growing concern.
Sixteen months after the man's transplant, doctors found no sign of HIV in his body. There is still no trace of the virus after 18 months off the drugs.
"It's not a cure yet, but 18 months is a fairly long time without a rebound", Kiem said.
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Hopes that a cure will be available to all any time soon are misplaced though.
"This is a highly significant study", said Aine McKnight, a professor of viral pathology at Queen Mary University of London in a statement. "We speculate that CCR5 gene therapy strategies using stem cells could conceivably be a scalable approach to remission", they said.
But McKnight cautioned that this won't necessarily lead to a treatment for all HIV individuals.
A digitally colorized scanning electron microscopic (SEM) image depicts a single, red colored H9-T cell that had been infected by numerous, spheroid shaped, mustard colored human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) particles attached to the cell's surface membrane, as seen in this 2012 image obtained from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) located in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., on March 5, 2019.
AIDS researchers have known about the this CCR5 mutation for years and have tried to think of ways to exploit it as a treatment for HIV.
This latest development is obviously big news for researchers hoping to cure HIV on a larger scale, but this particular case was extremely unique. Four years later, doctors gave him a bone marrow transplant, and luckily for him, his donor for the marrow had natural immunity to HIV.
Most experts say it is inconceivable such treatments could be a way of curing all patients.
Timothy Brown, the "Berlin patient", was given two transplants and underwent total body irradiation to treat leukemia, while the British patient received just one transplant and less intensive chemotherapy.