In what would only be the second time in medical history, an HIV patient appears to have been cured of the disease thanks to a bone marrow stem cell transplant. Then in 2017, Gupta took the London patient off of the anti-HIV drugs to see if the transplant had worked as it had in Brown's case: to push the HIV into remission. That's too soon to label the treatment - which used hematopoietic stem cells from a donor with an HIV-resistance gene - as a cure, researchers said Tuesday in a study in the journal Nature.
Though there are some differences, the London case mirrors that of the Berlin Patient, Timothy Brown, who has remained free of HIV and off ART since a bone marrow transplant 12 years ago and, until now, was the only adult considered to be cured of HIV.
CNN reports that the London patient, who has chosen anonymity, was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and began taking antiretroviral drugs nine years later. They made a decision to stop treating him with antiviral drugs after he volunteered to stop taking them. Instead, they say the patient is in remission.
Brown said he would like to meet the London patient and would encourage him to go public because "it's been very useful for science and for giving hope to HIV-positive people, to people living with HIV", he told The Associated Press Monday.
According to The New York Times, the patient entered "remission" from HIV after he received a bone marrow transplant to treat his unrelated lymphoma diagnosis. Interestingly, the donor's stem cells had a mutation named CCR5 delta 32. Brown's experience suggested that HIV might one day be curable; it fuelled various efforts by researchers and institutions to focus on HIV cure research. The giver - or donor - had a natural resistance to HIV. 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.
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The "London Patient" is only the second person known to have shaken off the HIV virus during a 40-year AIDS epidemic that has infected 70 million people and killed half of them. The new patient had none of this HIV variant, which probably contributed to the success of this treatment.
"HIV Is Cured In 2nd Patient, Doctors Report".
Dr. Timothy Henrich, an associate professor of medicine and physician scientist at University of California, San Francisco's Department of Medicine, also noted that the London patient's treatment "is not a scalable, safe or economically viable strategy to induce HIV remission".
Gupta added that the method used is not appropriate for all patients but offers hope for new treatment strategies, including gene therapies. But doctors cautioned against calling the patient's results a cure for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Brown, now 52, had leukemia and underwent two bone marrow transplants, being placed in an induced coma following his treatment before eventually recovering.
Stem cell transplants typically are harsh procedures which start with radiation or chemotherapy to damage the body's existing immune system and make room for a new one.