HIV cure: London patient recovers from sex disease in major breakthrough

Timothy Brown previously known

Timothy Brown previously known

Since the Berlin patient, who received two stem-cell transplants in 2007 and 2008 that cleared the virus from his body, doctors have tried to use the same procedure in a handful of other HIV-infected cancer patients, Vox reports, but either the treatments didn't work or the patients died from their cancer or other transplant complications.

In this case, however, there was a second goal: to cure the patient's HIV.

"For hepatitis C, we can completely cure people of the virus so they're no longer infected". Unlike Brown, though, the London patient did not have to go through a horrific, near-death experience to reap the benefits of the therapy.

Gupta said the method used is not appropriate for all patients but offers hope for new treatment strategies.

"The concept of a cure for HIV is really being able to remove the virus", David Rosenthal, DO, PhD, medical director of the Center for Young Adult, Adolescent, and Pediatric HIV at Northwell Health in Great Neck, New York, who was not involved in the London patient's care, tells Health.

Experts universally hailed the case, even as they cautioned that the procedure that resulted in the likely cure - a bone marrow transplant to treat blood cancer - is too unsafe and costly to be applied as a general treatment for HIV, which can today easily be managed, though not cured, with pills.

In the meantime, he said the focus needed to be on diagnosing HIV promptly and starting patients on lifelong combination antiretroviral therapy. The United Nations estimates that 37 million people worldwide are living with HIV.

London man becomes second in world to be cured of HIV
London HIV patient becomes world's second AIDS cure hope

A London man has no remaining detectable HIV a year and a half after undergoing a bone marrow stem cell transplant to treat lymphoma, researchers are reporting this week at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2019) in Seattle. The donor had double copies of an uncommon gene mutation known as CCR5-delta-32 that results in missing CCR5 co-receptors on T cells, the gateway most types of HIV use to infect cells. Extensive testing of blood plasma and T cells revealed undetectable HIV and his HIV-specific antibody level also dropped.

Timothy Ray Brown, aka the "Berlin patient", the only person to be cured of HIV, may finally have company.

The unidentified man now joins Timothy Ray Brown, also known as The Berlin Patient, the only other person to be cured of HIV.

"I think that one thing we've learned is finding a scalable, economically feasible cure, or HIV remission, is going to be hard", said Timothy Henrich, an infectious disease specialist at the University of California, San Francisco. Brown was treated using stem cells, effectively transplanting his immune system, because he had an unrelated cancer, and the chemotherapy was interfering with the antiretroviral drugs that had previously controlled his infection.

That risk is one reason why a stem cell transplant is never going to be a first-option treatment for HIV.

But future therapies could aim to mimic the treatment without the need for a bone-marrow transplant.

"Finding a way to eliminate the virus entirely is an urgent global priority, but is particularly hard because the virus integrates into the white blood cells of its host", said the study's lead author, Professor Ravindra Gupta from the University of Cambridge, who led the study while at UCL. Brown had to have a second stem cell transplant when his leukemia returned.

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