Second man seems to be free of AIDS virus after transplant

Kenny Tucker
March 7, 2019

A British man known as the "London patient" has become the second adult in the world to be in sustained remission from HIV and could be cured. More than 18 months after, the unidentified man dubbed the "the London patient" came off antiretroviral drugs-tests still show no trace of the man's previous infection.

The London patient, infected with HIV and suffering from Hodgkin's lymphoma, received bone marrow cells from a donor who had a malfunctioning CCR5 gene as part of his cancer treatment. That man, Timothy Ray Brown (known only as the "Berlin patient" at the time), received a similar bone marrow transplant which cured him of the disease.

Gupta said the London patient was "functionally cured" and is in remission, but said it was too early to officially say he is cured.

The International AIDS Society said in a statement Tuesday that results from the second patient "reaffirm our belief that there exists a proof of concept that HIV is curable". Effectively, some scientists believe that the "London patient" has been cured of the viral infection, which affects close to 37 million people worldwide.

The circumstances in both cases indicate that people with HIV who have cancer, and who need a stem cell transplant to treat it, may be cure candidates.

The treatment is risky, complex and expensive, researchers have said.

To learn more about the factors that favor a cure, amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research, a New York City-based foundation, in 2014 began to fund a consortium of global researchers who do transplants in HIV-infected people with blood cancers.

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A poster presented at CROI described another case of long-term HIV remission after a stem cell transplant from a donor with a double CCR5-delta-32 mutation. Researchers reported the case in the journal Nature and at this week's Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle. Unlike Brown, the London patient has not yet undergone testing for residual HIV in his gut and other tissues. He notes that the Berlin patient and the London patient had similar side effects after the treatment.

A digitally colorized scanning electron microscopic (SEM) image depicts a single, red colored H9-T cell that had been infected by numerous, spheroid shaped, mustard colored human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) particles attached to the cell's surface membrane, as seen in this 2012 image obtained from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) located in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., on March 5, 2019.

Only one other patient who has been cured from HIV is Timothy Ray Brown from Berlin.

"At the moment the procedure still carries too much risk to be used in patients who are otherwise well".

Experts have also warned that the treatment carried out is not practical or healthy for people living with HIV, reports the BBC, but could ultimately help to find a cure.

Since the transplant, there has been no sign of HIV and he stopped taking antiretroviral medicine 19 months ago.

CCR5 is on the surface of white blood cells, and HIV uses it to enter a cell. 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.

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