Wednesday, 20 March, 2019

London man becomes second in world to be cured of HIV

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Anna Jefferson | 06 March, 2019, 20:43

The man is being called "the London patient" in part because his case is similar to the first known case of a functional cure of HIV - in an American man, Timothy Brown, who became known as the Berlin patient when he underwent similar treatment in Germany in 2007, which also cleared his HIV.

"The question is, is it in remission, which means that we've been able to stop the virus from reproducing itself temporarily, or is it truly cured, in which case it won't ever come back?" says Dr. Rosenthal.

Nearly 1 million people die each year from HIV-related causes and the only current treatment available is for the affected to take antiretroviral drugs for their entire lives.

"With regular testing, condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and the fact that people on effective HIV treatment can not pass on the virus, we have the ability to completely prevent new HIV transmissions".

Mr Brown hopes that the London patient's cure proves as durable as his own, NYT reported.

The research team is presenting the findings today at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Seattle.

The approach is not appropriate as a standard HIV treatment due to the toxicity of chemotherapy, he warned, but said he is "hopeful" it will help them develop strategies that might eliminate HIV altogether.

After being diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma, a rare blood cancer, the London patient received a bone marrow transplant in 2016.

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He was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and put on antiretroviral therapy since 2012. As of 2017, there were approximately 36.9 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS. Specifically, the donor had a mutation in a gene that codes for a protein called CCR5, which HIV uses as a "port" to get inside cells. This makes it a tricky and unfeasible option as a treatment for other HIV-positive patients in the near future.

But the patient has experienced long-term remission from the virus without the need for medications for 18 months. Brown, now 52, had leukemia and underwent two bone marrow transplants, being placed in an induced coma following his treatment before eventually recovering.

Sharon Lewin, an expert at Australia's Doherty Institute and co-chair of the International AIDS Society's cure research advisory board, said: "We haven't cured HIV, but (this) gives us hope that it's going to be feasible one day to eliminate the virus".

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

Brown was given two stem cell transplants and radiotherapy for leukaemia, which is considered a much more aggressive form of treatment.

Graham Cooke, a professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London, said in a statement to the Science Media Centre that the new study is "encouraging".

Doctors have tried the procedure on a number of occasions since Brown was cleared of HIV.

However, now that science has determined that the earlier Berlin patient's HIV cure wasn't merely a unusual fluke, it could open up the doors to new gene-level treatments for the disease. Scientists have wondered, however, whether this good fortune could be shared around by injecting stem cells from people with two Δ32 copies into HIV patients.

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