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Has The World Finally Found A Cure For HIV/AIDS?

By Published March 06, 2019

Two days after doctors announced that a second HIV patient is now HIV free following a successful stem cell transplant, it appears there is a third.

It took a 12-year gap between the announcement of the first and second patients reportedly cured of their HIV infections, now it appears the world have finally found a cure for the dreaded HIV/AIDS virus.

Timothy Ray Brown, a U.S. man treated in Germany has now lived 12years post-transplant free of HIV. He was until last week the only person thought to have been cured of infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

The second patient from London whose name has not been made public yet was announced in an online journal last week and will be presented at an HIV conference in Seattle. The patient was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and started taking drugs to control the infection in 2012. It’s unclear why he waited that long. He developed Hodgkin lymphoma that year and agreed to a stem cell transplant to treat the cancer in 2016.

With the right kind of donor, his doctors figured, the patient might get a bonus beyond treating his cancer: a possible HIV cure.

Doctors found a donor with a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV. About 1 percent of people descended from northern Europeans have inherited the mutation from both parents and are immune to most HIV. The donor had this double copy of the mutation.

That was “an improbable event,” said lead researcher Ravindra Gupta of University College London. “That’s why this has not been observed more frequently.”

The transplant changed the London patient’s immune system, giving him the donor’s mutation and HIV resistance.

The patient voluntarily stopped taking HIV drugs to see if the virus would come back.

Usually, HIV patients expect to stay on daily pills for life to suppress the virus. When drugs are stopped, the virus roars back, usually in two to three weeks.

That didn’t happen with the London patient. There is still no trace of the virus after 18 months off the drugs.

Stem cell transplants typically are harsh procedures which start with radiation or chemotherapy to damage the body’s existing immune system and make room for a new one. There are complications too. Brown had to have a second stem cell transplant when his leukemia returned.

Compared to Brown, the London patient had a less punishing form of chemotherapy to get ready for the transplant, didn’t have radiation and had only a mild reaction to the transplant.

Dr. Gero Hutter, the German doctor who treated Brown, called the new case “great news” and “one piece in the HIV cure puzzle.”

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