London HIV patient becomes world's second AIDS cure hope

How HIV attacks. AFP

Reuters reports that the man, whose identity has not been revealed, has tested negative for the virus nearly three years after he received a bone marrow transplant from a donor with an HIV-resistant genetic mutation.

12 years ago, there was Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the Berlin patient. The "London patient", who prefers to remain anonymous, has now lived without his antiretroviral drugs for 18 months, showing no signs of the virus in his body, CNN reported. Like the London patient, he had a bone marrow stem cell transplant to treat cancer. HIV is at its most risky when it is actively replicating, furiously producing as many copies of itself as possible so it can penetrate immune cells and spread infection.

A person in sustained remission from HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS, shows that the disease may one day be curable, the International AIDS Society (IAS) said Tuesday. Her group has been working on a way to mutate the CCR5 gene directly in the bone marrow of a person to simulate the effect of the transplants.

The London, U.K. patient has not been identified.

University College London researchers made the announcement at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle this week.

HIV is one of the most deadliest viruses in the world. Resistant to H.I.V. infection, these modified cells should eventually clear the body of the virus, according to The Times. Luckily for him, his donor had a mutation in a gene called CCR5, which is linked with some people having a natural resistance to HIV.

In their latest small study, presented at CROI, Tebas's team showed that in 15 patients who received this therapy and then stopped ARVs, HIV did rebound, but a few weeks slower than it does in people without such transplants.

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Brown said he would like to meet the London patient and would encourage him to go public because "it's been very useful for science and for giving hope to HIV-positive people, to people living with HIV", he told The Associated Press Monday.

It's a matter of semantics, says Dr. Steven Deeks, professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and one of the doctors who treated Brown.

Brown, though, had undergone more severe treatment than the London patient and for a while researchers believed that his near-death experience was key to curing HIV. The vast majority of HIV strains use normal copies of this gene to gain entry to a patient's immune-system cells, WSJ said.

The London-based man was cured of AIDS after receiving a bone marrow transplant from a HIV-resistant donor. "After a ten year gap it provides important confirmation that the "Berlin patient" was not simply an anomaly". But HIV drugs have become so effective that many people carrying this infection have a normal lifespan if they take these medications for a lifetime.

The only previous patient to be cured of the virus was Timothy Ray Brown, an American known as the "Berlin patient".

However, medical experts warned the news does not mean all HIV patients can be cured from their disease.

Scientist are increasingly hopeful that cure would be found soon after over 30 years of rigorous research.

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