After Timothy Ray Brown, the first known case of a functional cure for HIV, another patient seems to have been cleared of the AIDS virus after receiving a bone marrow transplant from an HIV resistant donor, Reuters reports.
The case was published Monday by the journal Nature and will later be presented at an HIV conference in Seattle.
Called the “London patient” due to the man’s request to remain private, the HIV-positive man in Britain was first diagnosed with HIV back in 2003 and started antiretroviral drugs to control the virus in 2012. During this time, he developed Hodgkin lymphoma and underwent a stem cell transplant to treat the cancer in 2016.
Almost three years after receiving the treatment from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection, doctors have conducted highly sensitive tests and results show no trace of the man’s previous HIV infection. The London patient has been off antiretroviral drugs for more than 18 months as well.
Doctors have mentioned that the transplant changed the patient’s immune system while giving him the donor’s mutation and resistance to the HIV virus.
Dr. Ravindra Gupta, the professor and HIV biologist who co-led a team of doctors treating the man, says: “There is no virus there that we can measure. We can’t detect anything.” Gupta has also described the patient as “functionally cured” while his virus is “in remission”.
However, Dr. Gupta cautions, “It’s too early to say he’s cured.” Yet the doctor remains optimistic: “I think this does change the game a little bit. Everybody believed after the Berlin patient that you needed to nearly die basically to cure HIV, but now maybe you don’t.”
There are approximately 37 million people worldwide infected with HIV/AIDS in 2017 according to UNAIDS. The pandemic has killed around 35 million people since it first began in the 1980s.
Hailing the recent progress as a milestone in the global AIDS epidemic, the case is proof of one day putting an end to AIDS and that a cure is reachable. But today, it does not mean a cure for HIV has been found.
“I feel a sense of responsibility to help the doctors understand how it happened so they can develop the science,” the London patient told The New York Times via e-mail. “I never thought that there would be a cure during my lifetime.”
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