Scientists have just reported a new case study of a previously HIV-positive man, referred to as the London patient, who has no remaining detectable HIV a year and a half after undergoing a bone marrow stem cell transplant to treat lymphoma.
According to doctors, the unnamed person received a bone marrow transplant from an HIV resistant donor and antiretroviral drugs about 19 months ago.
Gupta described his patient as "functionally cured" and "in remission", but cautioned: "It's too early to say he's cured".
In order to achieve that serendipitous "cure", Brown had to undergo aggressive treatment for his acute myeloid leukemia that involved two hematopoietic stem cell transplantations - in which a patient's bone marrow is damaged - and full body irradiation.
The statement quoted IAS President Anton Pozniak as saying "This is the second reported case of prolonged remission off antiretroviral therapy (ART) post bone marrow transplantation from a CCR5 negative donor".
The affected person voluntarily stopped taking HIV medication to see if the virus would come again. Prof Ravindra Gupta cited the unethical research by the Chinese scientist where he created designer babies with the CCR5 gene-editing to make them immune to HIV. HIV expert Sharon Lewin said two factors were probably at play in his success story: the genetic resistance and a transplant side-effect that attacks immune cells. But she said his was also an unusual circumstance. and that the treatment is not practical for her patients with HIV. Preventing HIV Virus From Rebounding The male patient was diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003.
But the London patient's conditioning treatment was far milder than Brown's, leading many to conclude this was probably not responsible for vanquishing the HIV virus.
Close to 37 million people are living with HIV worldwide and almost one million people die every year from HIV-related causes. Under normal circumstances, the CCR5 gene in question acts like a key of sorts, enabling H.I.V.to penetrate and infect humans' immune cells. Notable differences were that the Berlin Patient was given two transplants, and underwent total body irradiation, while the United Kingdom patient received just one transplant and less intensive chemotherapy.
The research team for the London patient will present their findings at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle, Washington. The inability to find HIV in their blood, coupled with the missing CCR5 receptor, constitutes the HIV viral remission of the London patient announced earlier this week. "We speculate that CCR5 gene therapy strategies using stem cells could conceivably be a scalable approach to remission", they said. These drugs halt HIV from replicating and allow an infected person to regain a functioning immune system. To some that means a cure; however, as Dr Annemarie Wensing of the University Medical Centre Utrecht, who was quoted by The NYT, said, "We don't have any global agreement on what time without viral rebound is necessary to speak about cure".