Second HIV patient cured from stem cell treatment

March 5, 2019

A patient in England reportedly has been cured of infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, via a stem cell transplant.

The case, which was reported in the journal Nature and made news around the world, is just the second instance in which a patient’s body has been cleared of the virus. The researchers referred to it as long-term remission, but some experts say it is a cure.

The first case of complete clearing of HIV from the body occurred 12 years ago, in much the same way. The most recent patient, who has not been identified, underwent treatment for Hodgkin lymphoma, and in the process received a stem cell transplant in May 2016.

The stem cell donor had a genetic mutation that prevents HIV from attaching to white blood cells. Most people with the mutation are of Northern European descent, and a European consortium of scientists who study stem cell treatments for HIV infections maintains a database of about 22,000 potential donors.

Following a recovery period, the patient stopped taking anti-HIV drugs in September 2017 and has been virus-free ever since.

“This is a major milestone in the fight against HIV,” said Scott Jones, Vice President, Scientific Affairs, at BioBridge Global. “This case provides proof of concept that cell therapy could potentially be used to cure AIDS. However, it is not likely that this current treatment could be used to cure all patients. This treatment is expensive, complex and very risky.”

However, it does show that with more research, there is the potential to find other ways to modify the immune system, Jones said.

“This reiterates why it is so important for us to play our role in the regenerative medicine industry,” he said.

The man, referred to only as the “London patient,” told the New York Times he never expected to see a cure for AIDS in his lifetime.

“I feel a sense of responsibility to help the doctors understand how it happened so they can develop the science,” he told The Times.

His treatments were far less severe than in the first case cured 12 years ago, in which an American came close to death from the side effects of immunosuppressive drugs. Those drugs are no longer used.

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