Düsseldorf Patient: A Third Person May Have Been Cured Of HIV

Alicia Farmer
March 10, 2019

The breakthrough comes just days after a patient in London became the second person to be declared HIV free after a bone marrow transplant.

Yet even with this life-extending treatment, a functional HIV cure, defined as when someone with HIV no longer tests positive for the virus and does not need to take these medications, has remained elusive. The original patient, 52-year-old Timothy Ray Brown, was also "cured" of HIV via bone marrow transplant more than 10 years ago.

Around 16 months after the London Patient received the CCR5 stem cells, doctors discontinued his antiretroviral treatments, and 18 months down the line, the man's remission persists.

Earlier this week, researchers announced that they were able to cure the another person's HIV.

These events mark an important milestone in securing domestic sustainable financing for the HIV response in Vietnam and ensuring that people living with HIV access treatment services. As part of his treatment for leukemia, which is a cancer of the immune system, his immune cells were destroyed and replaced with donor cells with the mutation.

Researchers learned that Brown and the "London patient" both shared a novel treatment course.

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Around 22,000 people are known have the CCR5 mutation, and they are mostly northern European. Then the patient receives a transplant of new stem cells from either themselves or a donor. Scientists are describing the condition as a long-term remission, but the news has given hope for a cure. Additional follow-up research must be done to insure that the new bone marrow produced reconstitutes the patient's immune system with the CCR5 genetic mutation so that HIV treatment can be stopped.

Top panel illustrates the treatment course for the London patient.

Also, while the London patient's cancer treatment was less intense, with just chemotherapy and the stem cell transplant, it was still toxic and is not a course of treatment that otherwise healthy people living with HIV infection should embark upon. When HIV-infected individuals are compliant with the prescribed use of the AIDS cocktail, their viral load is undetectable and they become untransmittable, meaning they can not sexually transmit the HIV virus to others. Add to this that only about one percent of Caucasians are CCR5 negative-this being a mutation that only appears in European bloodlines-and it quickly becomes apparent that we can not feasibly use stem cell transplants to make every person with HIV enter remission.

The next big question is how the knowledge gained from CCR5 stem cell transplants might actually help create a true cure for HIV.

The Düsseldorf patient, who has been HIV-free for three months without antiviral medication, is in rare company as one of only three people who have successfully been cured of HIV.

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