What the 'London patient' means for HIV/AIDS research

Stem cell patient 'cured' of HIV | News

London Patient Cured Of HIV/AIDS

The affected person voluntarily stopped taking HIV medication to see if the virus would come again.

"Whilst this type of treatment is clearly not practical for millions of people around the world living with HIV, reports such as this may help in the ultimate development of a cure", said Andrew Freedman, a reader in infectious diseases at Cardiff University in Wales.

A PATIENT being treated in Britain has become only the second person in the world to be cleared of the HIV virus.

A London man has no remaining detectable HIV a year and a half after undergoing a bone marrow stem cell transplant to treat lymphoma, according to a presentation at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2019), taking place this week in Seattle.

Timothy Ray Brown, the Berlin Patient, had been living with HIV and routinely using antiretroviral therapy when he was diagnosed with a different disease, acute myeloid leukemia. "Its effectiveness underlines the importance of developing new strategies based on preventing CCR5 expression", said co-author Dr Ian Gabriel (Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust).

The vast majority of people living with HIV are located in low- and middle- income countries, with an estimated 66% living in sub-Saharan Africa.

A new drug-resistant form of HIV is also a growing concern.

"Firstly, the bone marrow transplant in both HIV cure cases were primarily used to treat cancers of the blood and were modified to enable a HIV cure". But she said his was also an unusual circumstance. and that the treatment is not practical for her patients with HIV.

Sharon Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne and a leading expert on HIV/AIDS, told AFP it was likely one of two things had happened.

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According to doctors, the person who had donated the stem cells to the London patient had a rare genetic mutation that can only be found in 1% of northern Europeans. "But is particularly hard because the virus integrates into the white blood cells of its host".

Scientists believe a cure for Aids could be in sight, following the successful treatment of a man in London that has made him HIV-free for 18 months.

All three cases have involved patients receiving cancer treatment separate to their HIV diagnosis.

Post chemotherapy, he underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016 and subsequently remained on antiretroviral therapy for 16 months. 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.

Donald Bliss/NLM/NIH 3D structure of HIV infected (blue, green) and uninfected (brown, purple) T cells interacting. But when CCR5 malfunctions, Time's Alice Park explains, immune cells are able to strengthen their defense system and ward off the infection.

While a second patient experiencing HIV viral remission with a slightly less toxic cancer treatment is certainly encouraging progress, an 18-month remission does not equal a cure.

"I think it's getting close to something that should be called a cure", Brown told aidsmap.

Joining The Takeaway to discuss this breakthrough and what it means for AIDS research going forward is Dr. Timothy J. Henrich, an AIDS specialist at the University of California, San Francisco.

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