An HIV patient recovered with a stem cell transplant. He became the second patient in the world to recover from this disease.
an HIV patient who received a stem cell transplant is now “cured”. He has become the second patient in the world to recover from the disease, his doctors announced Tuesday, March 10.
Almost ten years after the first confirmed case of an HIV patient who managed to get rid of it, this second case, known as “the London patient”, has shown no signs of the virus for 30 months, according to the results published in the journal The Lancet HIV.
In March 2019, Professor Ravindra Gupta, of the University of Cambridge, announced that this man diagnosed with HIV in 2003 was in remission, having shown no sign of the virus for 18 months. The doctor had however called for caution, insisting on the term of remission and not healing, asking for more time.
“We suggest that our results represent a cure for HIV”
A year later, his team took this step. “We suggest that our results represent a cure for HIV,” they write, after testing samples of blood, tissue, sperm. “We tested a fairly considerable number of places where the virus likes to hide and practically everything was negative”, apart from a few “fossil” remains of non-active virus, Pr Gupta told AFP. “It is hard to imagine that all traces of a virus that infects billions of cells have been eliminated,” he said.
Like the “Berlin patient”, the American Timothy Ray Brown considered cured in 2011, this “London patient” underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat blood cancer, and thus received stem cells from donors carrying a rare genetic mutation that prevents HIV from taking hold, CCR5.
Scientists still cautious
Scientists point out that the procedure used for the two recovered patients is very cumbersome and risky, asking “ethical” questions, as Professor Gupta points out.
“Is the London patient really healed?” Asked Sharon Lewin of the University of Melbourne. “The data (…) is of course exciting and encouraging, but in the end, only time will tell,” she noted, saying it would take “more than a handful of HIV-cured patients “to assess the” likelihood of a late and unexpected resumption of virus replication “.
Almost 38 million people are living with HIV worldwide, but only 62% are receiving triple therapy. Nearly 800,000 people died in 2018 from HIV-related conditions. The emergence of drug-resistant forms of HIV is also a growing concern.