Health Care

London patient may be second person to be cured of HIV

London patient may be second person to be cured of HIV”

Scientific investigation into the world's second man cleared of the AIDS virus is zooming in on a gene and a treatment side-effect, as newly-enthused researchers strive to find a cure for the disease that has killed millions.

Both patients were treated with stem cell transplants from donors carrying a genetic mutation that prevents expression of an HIV receptor CCR5.

However, Gupta described his patient as "functionally cured" and "in remission", rather than "cured".

Bone marrow transplants are inherently risky and are considered a last resort treatment, so it is unlikely they could be used en masse to treat HIV patients.

Prof Gupta's case was in an HIV-positive man with advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma who received a transplant of haematopoietic stem cells from a donor with two copies of the so-called CCR5 gene mutation - the same one allegedly edited by Chinese researcher He Jiankui that led to the birth of the world's first gene-edited babies a year ago. Lower right panel shows that after the stem cell transplant, the patient's immune cells no longer displayed a working CCR5 receptor, which blocks more HIV from entering his CD4 cells.

The CCR5 gene, and the eponymous cell it codes for, nearly certainly play a crucial role in the collateral HIV cure.

"The so-called London Patient has now been off ART for 19 months with no viral rebound which is impressive, but I would still be closely monitoring his viral load", Sharon Lewin, IAS Governing Council Member and Co-Chair of the Towards an HIV Cure initiative, said. "However, the case is important as it reaffirms that the CCR5 receptor is a candidate for future research approaches in HIV remission". "And for people at risk for HIV there are medications they can take that will keep them HIV free".

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus.

"While it is too early to say with certainty that our patient is now cured of HIV, and doctors will continue to monitor his condition, the apparent success of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation offers hope in the search for a long-awaited cure for HIV/AIDS", said Professor Eduardo Olavarria (Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and Imperial College London). More than twenty years after scientists announced that we had the medical resources to treat HIV effectively, around 40% of people who live with HIV globally are still unable to access this life-saving treatment.

The London Patient's case gives fresh hope to scientists and pharmaceutical researchers who have spent decades looking for ways to end AIDS. He was identified with HIV in 2003 and began taking medication to regulate the infection in 2012. In people who have the CCR5 mutation, the virus is unable to enter cells and thus can not cause infection. Before the second case was reported, Brown's had been the only one of a cure.

The patient, known only as "London patient" reportedly prefers to remain anonymous. "In this case, he got cured both from cancer as well as the AIDS", Badarkhe said. These drugs halt HIV from replicating and allow an infected person to regain a functioning immune system.

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