Düsseldorf Patient: A Third Person May Have Been Cured Of HIV

A doctor looking at a microscope


Earlier this week, doctors from the United Kingdom said "the London patient", which had also undergone a bone marrow transplant from a donor with the same mutation. The Düsseldorf patient has been announced at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.

Until recently, the only known man who managed to be cured from HIV was Timothy brown, known as "the Berlin patient". But individuals who carry a mutation in the gene that codes for the CCR5 co-receptor are resistant to HIV infection. However, being off of antiviral drugs and HIV-free is still a promising accomplishment, even if more time is necessary for proper confirmation.

Such transplants are risky and have failed in other patients. The "London patient" received a bone marrow transplant to treat his Hodgkin disease and was virus-free over a year after he stopped taking HIV medication. The resistance is the result of a genetic mutation called CCR5-delta 32, which occurs in small pockets of people throughout Europe and Asia.

This week's finding also creates more research possibilities and will hopefully stimulate a return to more research for a cure and away from the current narrow scope of research that nearly exclusively focuses on the development of more effective and more powerful yet similar HIV cocktail drugs.

The subsequent media hype surrounding the reported cure of the London patient very much reminds the plague generation of the speculation around a possible "cure for AIDS" when protease inhibitors and the triple therapy "AIDS cocktail" were first introduced in 1996.

Scientists have been searching for a cure for HIV/AIDS for close to 40 years.

Another man appears to have achieved remission from HIV, but what does this mean, and does it indicate that we are closer to a true cure for the virus?

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He later developed cancer and agreed to undergo a bone-marrow transplant for treatment. People with HIV are sometimes more susceptible to the development of cancers, but only a minority of people living with HIV have cancer.

He added: "Although the finding is exciting, it is not offering up a new treatment for the millions of people around the world living with HIV". Finding the right regimen and staying on it can make the virus undetectable in a person's blood, meaning both that they stay healthy and that they cannot transmit the virus to other people.

The vast majority of HIV virus strains use the CCR5 molecule, or receptor, as the port of entry into human cells. Instead of having to keep in mind to take pills, patients instead could get injections from a doctor or nurse each month.

The London man was diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003 and was put on anti-retroviral therapy in 2012. He has now been HIV-free without medication for 18 months.

"The reason we know that this appears to be effective is that these people are no longer taking their anti-retroviral agents - which stops the virus from replicating - but nevertheless using very sensitive approaches, the virus can not be detected in their body at present".

After so many failed attempts at replication, the London patient is giving researchers hope that Brown's case was not just luck.

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