AIDS cure: London man becomes second to be 'cured' of HIV

An illustration of the HIV virus

Enlarge Image An illustration of the HIV virus Shutterstock

A transplant of bone marrow stem cells from a donor with that specific mutation has seemingly cured the man, known only as the "London patient", of his HIV infection.

Another patient who goes by the name Timothy Brown is known as the "Berlin Man" was sent into remission 10 years ago by a similar treatment but the attempts to replicate the result have failed until now.

Doctors say a British man who previously tested positive for HIV might be the second person ever to be cured of the AIDS virus. The team also found that his white blood cells now can not be infected with CCR5-dependent HIV strains, indicating the donor's cells had engrafted.

Brown, aka the "Berlin Patient, ' was "cured" of HIV infection via chemotherapy, radiation, and genetically-engineered stem cells in 2010".

The patient voluntarily stopped taking HIV drugs to see if the virus would come back. After 18 months off the drugs, there was still has no trace of HIV, the AP reported. The London patient, who had Hodgkin's lymphoma, is the first adult to be cleared of HIV since Brown.

"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".

The male patient has achieved "sustained remission" from HIV after being treated at Hammersmith Hospital in west London, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust said. He notes that the Berlin patient and the London patient had similar side effects after the treatment.

Advancements in antiretroviral drugs have greatly increased the life expectancy of people diagnosed with HIV in recent years.

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Some 37 million people worldwide are now infected with HIV and the AIDS pandemic has killed around 35 million people worldwide since it began in the 1980s. Bone-marrow transplantation is a technique where blood cells of the patient is destroyed and replenished with stem cells transplanted from a healthy donor. He was given a transplant of hematopoietic stem cells from a donor with two copies of a mutation relating to CCR5-a protein on the surface of white blood cells plays a role in the immune system.

But in the case of the London patient, the treatment worked.

Although the treatments that the two men received can only be used in a tiny proportion of the 37 million people infected with HIV globally, the outcomes point to cure strategies that could be applied more broadly.

This is the second time a person has been cleared of HIV following a bone marrow transplant from a donor with this genetic mutation.

The London patient, who is remaining anonymous, also underwent chemotherapy. He said simply, "I never thought that there would be a cure during my lifetime".

"If you are saying that bone marrow transplants are now going to be a viable way to cure large numbers of people with HIV in a scalable way, the answer to that is absolutely not", says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

But replacing immune cells with those that do not have the CCR5 receptor appears to be key in preventing HIV from rebounding after the treatment. Stem cell transplantation is life-threatening - Brown almost died during the process and was left with lasting side-effects.

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