by 👩💻 Alice Monroe
Research into the curing and treatment of infectious HIV has reportedly hit on a remarkable breakthrough in the last few days. At a medical conference in Seattle, it was confirmed that the second person in the world to be completely cured of HIV had been confirmed in London. At the same conference, it was reported that a patient in Düsseldorf had also been cured of the disease, bringing the cure total up to three. According to the Evening Standard, the third patient’s hopeful recovery was reported three months after he ceased taking antiretroviral treatment. Both the London and Düsseldorf patients remain anonymous, though the first person to be completely cured, ‘Berlin patient’ Timothy Ray Brown, has gone public about his treatment.
HIV biologist Ravindran Gupta, who had helped to treat the third supposed patient, has however advised caution with regard to speculation. “It’s too early to say he’s cured,” Mr Gupta confirmed.
Annemarie Wensing, speaking on behalf of the University Medical Center Utrecht, announced the news during the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, where it was stated that the third patient had experienced remission of the disease following treatment for leukaemia. It’s thought that the patient received a bone marrow transplant from a donor who possessed CCR5 delta 32, a genetic mutation which is reportedly beneficial in helping to resist HIV.
The London patient, too, had experienced similar remission as a result of the CCR5 mutation. He was reportedly treated for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and the CCR5 had once again supposedly travelled into his bloodstream via bone marrow transplant. That particular patient, New Scientist reports, has been free of HIV for over 18 months.
A London hospital patient is the second person in the world to be cleared of HIV [video]
Time will tell if the third case will remain HIV-free, though scientists remain hopeful, if cautious. This has led to the launch of a study into other HIV patients who may have had a bone marrow transplant with CCR5 supplanted. This may well lead to an incredible breakthrough in how we understand HIV, and how scientists may be able to reverse the devastating effects it can bring upon people’s lives. It’s unclear how CCR5 may be introduced into patients who don’t require cancer treatment – but it’s thought gene editing may hold the answer.
In any case, this is very good news for the future of HIV treatment. A disease once thought to be incurable now seems to be meeting its match in a rare genetic mutation.