He’s only the third alleged to have been cured of the virus.
With already two patients reported to have been functionally cured of HIV, the hopes in finding medication to eliminate the virus becomes more progressive. However, in relation to the decade-long interval between the public announcement of Timothy Ray Brown (2008) and the ‘London patient’ (2019) cases, people are expecting more years of comprehensive studies for another breakthrough.
Yet only days after the London patient, another person may have been cured of HIV. Reports say that the third patient, referred to as the ‘Dusseldorf patient,’ has undergone bone-marrow transplant treatment where the HIV-infected cells are replaced and rebooted. The same treatment was made for the first two.
However, reports also state that the doctors’ remission of HIV in this case is still at an early stage. In comparison to the London patient, who had been off antiretroviral drugs for more than 18 months, the Dusseldorf patient was accounted in a scientific conference in Seattle only after three months of showing no signs of the infection, in the absence of antiviral drugs.
Doctors are also quick to note that not all HIV-positive patients are suitable for a bone-marrow transplant procedure. Similar to both the Berlin and London patients, the unidentified German had to undergo a stem cell transplant primarily to treat his cancer.
In addition, only people with CCR5 mutation can be the donors, who are extremely rare. CCR5 is a mutation in a gene wherein its presence on both chromosomes makes a person naturally resistant to HIV, and when used in a bone-marrow transplant, combats the persistence of the HIV virus.
Meanwhile, aside from these three cases, Javier Martinez-Picado of the IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute in Barcelona has revealed via New Scientist the existence of two other HIV-positive patients who have undergone the stem cell transplant—but they remain on retroviral pills unlike the three. They will be monitored for more findings.
The mobilization of efforts to further the study on treating and curing HIV has never been more relevant. These reports—both lauded and criticized—are still considered milestones in the medical field. And while more research is required to scientifically prove future claims, the progress is nonetheless significant.
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