Health Care

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

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

The patient, from London, was able to successfully recover after receiving bone marrow stem cells from a donor with a rare HIV-resistant genetic mutation.

Doctors found a donor with a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV. At this point, he has been off of his HIV medication and still in remission for 18 months, according to his doctors, led by Dr. Ravindra Gupta of University College London, in England.

Although Brown almost died after he was given strong immunosuppressive drugs and was put into a coma, the "London patient" did not come that close; he suffered from Hodgkin's lymphoma and received a similar bone-marrow transplant to Brown's, but the immunosuppressive drugs he received were gentler. There are now 37 million people infected with HIV, 21 million are on antiretroviral treatment, but drug-resistant strains are becoming more widespread.

A United Kingdom hospital patient is the second person in the world to be cleared of the Aids virus, doctors have said.

Dr Gupta, a virologist at University of London, described the cure as "remission", a term normally used with cancer patients to mean that one is not cancer free, as the cancer cells are still in the body but inactive.

With the right kind of donor, his doctors figured, the London patient might get a bonus beyond treating his cancer: a possible HIV cure.

The therapy had an early success with Timothy Ray Brown, a USA man treated in Germany who is 12 years post-transplant and still free of HIV.

"Although it is not a viable large-scale strategy for a cure ... these new findings reaffirm our belief that there exists a proof of concept that HIV is curable", Anton Pozniak, the president of the International Aids Society, told The Guardian.

Can bone marrow transplants eliminate HIV for a large number of people?

And the remission was achieved with a less toxic regimen than Brown, the Berlin patient, received, the researchers said. 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.

The London Patient has chosen to remain anonymous. A patient with lymphoma had his blood stem cells eliminated using radiation, then received stem cells from someone with the appropriate mutation. So, pre-screening the HIV population would appear to be critical to identifying the patients that this can help. Even if the CCR5 mutation wasn't extremely rare, you'd still have to match the immunological footprints of the donor and the patient to prevent the bone marrow from reacting badly to the recipient.

For the second time in the decades-long fight against the HIV/AIDS, a patient with HIV has reportedly been cured of the virus.

Despite various attempts by scientists using the same approach, Brown had remained the only person cured of HIV until the new London patient.

16 months after the stem-cell transplant, September 2017, the man went off his antiretroviral drugs for HIV.

Advancements in antiretroviral drugs have greatly increased the life expectancy of people diagnosed with HIV in recent years.

"But this is not applicable to the millions of people who don't need a stem cell transplant".

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