The Hush Post| 8.49 am | two-minute-read
Finally, we have a second man afflicted with HIV but has been cleared of AIDS virus. This person is named London patient by the doctors. The first person to be cleared of AIDS virus in 2007 was called ‘Berlin Patient.’ Though, now we know the name of the patient. His name is Timothy Brown. Brown has now migrated to America.
The latest man from London became free of AIDS virus after receiving a bone marrow transplant from an HIV resistant donor.
Three years after receiving bone marrow stem cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection — and more than 18 months after coming off antiretroviral drugs – highly sensitive tests show no trace of the man’s previous HIV infection.
“There is no virus there that we can measure. We can’t detect anything,” said Ravindra Gupta, a professor and HIV biologist who co-led a team of doctors treating the man.
This proves sufficiently and beyond doubt that scientists will one day be able to end AIDS. Gupta described his patient as “functionally cured” and “in remission.”
The man is being called “the London Patient”, because his case is similar to the first known case of a functional cure of HIV – in an American man, Timothy Brown.
Brown became known as the ‘Berlin Patient’ when he underwent similar treatment in Germany in 2007. He was then cleared of HIV virus.
Brown, who had been living in Berlin, has since moved to the United States and, according to HIV experts, is still HIV-free 12 years later.
Some 37 million people worldwide are currently infected with HIV and AIDS pandemic and it has taken life of around 35 million people worldwide since it began in the 1980s.
Scientific research into the complex virus has in recent years led to the development of drug combinations that can keep it at bay in most patients.
Gupta, now at Cambridge University, treated the London patient when he was working at University College London. The man had contracted HIV in 2003, Gupta said, and in 2012 was also diagnosed with a type of blood cancer called Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
Came to life from the jaws of death
In 2016, when he was very sick with cancer, doctors decided to seek a transplant match for him. “This was really his last chance of survival,” Gupta told Reuters. The donor – who was unrelated – had a genetic mutation known as ‘CCR5 delta 32’, which confers resistance to HIV.
The transplant went relatively smoothly, Gupta said, but there were some side effects, including the patient suffering a period of “graft-versus-host” disease – a condition in which donor immune cells attack the recipient’s immune cells.
Most experts say it is inconceivable such treatments could be a way of curing all patients. The procedure is high priced, complex and risky. To do this in others, exact match donors have to be found in the tiny proportion of people — most of them of northern European descent — who have the CCR5 mutation that makes them resistant to the virus.
Specialists said it is also not yet clear whether the CCR5 resistance is the only key – or whether the graft versus host disease may have been just as important. Both the Berlin and London patients had this complication. This may have played a role in the loss of HIV-infected cells, Gupta said.
Sharon Lewin, an expert at Australia’s Doherty Institute and co-chair of the International AIDS Society’s cure research advisory board, told Reuters the London case points to new avenues for study.
“We haven’t cured HIV. But (this) gives us hope that it’s going to be feasible one day,” she said. Gupta said his team plans to use these findings to explore potential new HIV treatment strategies. “We need to understand if we could knock out this (CCR5) receptor in people with HIV, which may be possible with gene therapy,” he said.