HIV Treatment: Second Man Is In HIV Remission
Global statistics show that approximately 37 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV (1). Unfortunately, there is no cure for the disease and the only way to manage it is with ARVs.
However, a recent study shows promising news in regards to finding a cure for the disease. It’s been revealed that a London man has achieved remission from HIV infection. He is the second person in documented history to do so. The last known man was Timothy Ray Brown, who is currently the only HIV-positive person with undetectable levels of the virus.
In 2007, HIV positive Timothy Ray Brown was suffering from leukemia. Following a bone marrow transplant, Brown obtained a mutated protein, CCR5, that actually blocked the spread of HIV in his body.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge London and led by Ravindra Gupta opted to use this same treatment in regards to the London patient, but with some modifications as Brown had suffered from a coma following his own treatment.
The London patient – who prefers to remain anonymous – was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 but did not take any ARVs until 2012. Moreover, that same year, he was later diagnosed with stage 4 Hodgkin’s lymphoma – an aggressive type of blood cancer.
To treat cancer, the London patient received both chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant in 2016. In regards to the donor, Gupta’s team opted to choose a donor that also possessed a genetic mutation resistant to HIV – CCR5 – similar to Brown’s donor.
For a period of a year and a half, Gupta had the London patient continue to take his ARVs. The patient then stopped taking them in 2017. Now, nearly 18 months later, levels of the virus remain undetectable and all of the patients’ immune cells contain CCR5.
Is this a cure for HIV?
Taking into account the results of the study, is it safe to say that we have finally found a cure for one of the world’s biggest killers?
Not exactly. Dr. Steven Deeks, professor of medicine at the University of California, told TIME magazine that he doesn’t believe that the London man’s body is free from HIV, but rather that the HIV is trapped and unable to replicate and spread.
“If you are saying that bone marrow transplants are now going to be a viable way to cure large numbers of people with HIV in a scalable way, the answer to that is absolutely not,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to TIME magazine. “Bone marrow transplants are risky. I would much rather be on one pill a day with relatively little toxicity than risk a bone marrow transplant.”
That being said, as opposed to using bone marrow transplants to treat HIV, Fauci suggests realigning HIV research to focus on CCR5. Research author Ravindra Gupta echoed these sentiments in his statement,
“By achieving remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we have shown that the Berlin patient was not an anomaly, and that it really was the treatment approaches that eliminated HIV in these two people,” he explained, “If we are going to talk about remission and getting people off of ART (antiretroviral treatment) for life, then targeting CCR5 therapeutically is an option that we need to explore further”,
You can read more about the HIV study here
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Another disease that continues to plague the world is cancer. However, breakthroughs in medical science have offered healthcare practitioners new options in the treatment of cancer. Click here to find out more about immunotherapy playing a part in cancer treatment.