Biopsies from his gut and lymph nodes have shown no infectious HIV following a bone marrow transplant, and three-and-a-half months off antiviral drugs, Annemarie Wensing of the Netherlands-based University Medical Center Utrecht, who worked on the case, told the outlet. Yes, these new drugs hopefully have less side effects to extend the life long use of expensive pharmaceuticals by all people living with HIV, but they are not a cure.
The first man to have been put into HIV remission in this way-Timothy Brown, or the Berlin Patient as he is known-also had stem cell treatment as part of a series of treatments for acute myeloid leukemia (AML).
But just like the protease inhibitors and triple therapy were not a cure in 1996, the eradication of HIV from the bodies of two men across more than a dozen years undergoing stem cell or bone marrow transplants with cells that have the CCR5 genetic mutation is simply not the promise of an impending cure for HIV for at least four important reasons: it is highly unsafe; it is extremely expensive; it is not scalable; and it is not sustainable.
This announcement at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle comes just two days after the second person in history was announced to be HIV-free on Monday, March 4.
He later developed cancer and agreed to undergo a bone-marrow transplant for treatment.
Around 22,000 people are known have the CCR5 mutation, and they are mostly northern European.
"The stem cell transplant primarily involves reprogramming the immune system to be HIV-resistant".
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Globally, 36.9 million people were living with HIV in 2017.
Both patients are registered to a research collaboration project called IciStem, according to a statement.
Stem cell transplants or bone marrow transplants are painful, costly and time consuming-and there are several ways in which such transplants go wrong. When HIV-infected individuals are compliant with the prescribed use of the AIDS cocktail, their viral load is undetectable and they become untransmittable, meaning they can not sexually transmit the HIV virus to others. The unnamed male London patient was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 then advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2012.
Also, while the London patient's cancer treatment was less intense, with just chemotherapy and the stem cell transplant, it was still toxic and is not a course of treatment that otherwise healthy people living with HIV infection should embark upon.
Still, researchers say that what they are learning from these patients is invaluable and could eventually provide gene therapy treatments for HIV. "At the moment HIV isn't cured". Most HIV uses both the CD4 and CCR5 receptor to enter a person's immune cells.
Top panel illustrates the treatment course for the London patient.
He did not experience HIV rebound, during the 18 months he did not take anti-viral medication.