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Second patient believed to be cured of AIDS

09 March 2019

"We can't detect anything", Ravindra Gupta, a professor at University College London and HIV biologist who co-led a team of doctors to treat the patient, told Reuters.

A nurse (L) hands out a red ribbon to a woman, to mark World Aids Day, at the entrance of Emilio Ribas Hospital, in Sao Paulo December 1, 2014.

The anonymous "London patient" appears to have been infection-free for the past year and a half, after receiving a bone marrow transplant for cancer.

Doctors in Britain said on Monday that the HIV-positive man had been cleared after he received a bone marrow transplant from an HIV-resistant donor. It's hard to find donors who carry the mutated CCR5 gene; according to Mandavilli of the Times, European consortium IciStem maintains a database of around 22,000 such individuals.

About 37 million people worldwide are infected with HIV.

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"The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) attacks and weakens the immune system, reducing its ability to fight diseases or infections", Girish Badarkhe, Haematologist at HCG Cancer Centre, Bengaluru, told IANS.

Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of UNAIDS, the United Nations' AIDS Agency, said the organisation was "greatly encouraged by the news that an HIV-positive man has been functionally cured of HIV".

Ten years after the first confirmed case of an HIV-infected person being rid of the deadly disease, a man known only as the "London patient" has shown no sign of the virus for almost 19 months. Lower right panel shows that after the stem cell transplant, the patient's immune cells no longer displayed a working CCR5 receptor, which blocks more HIV from entering his CD4 cells.

In people who have the CCR5 mutation, the virus is unable to enter cells and thus can not cause infection.

This "graft versus host" effect is akin to a deadly battle of two immune systems, explained Steven Deeks, an HIV expert at the University of California.

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Some who have lived with HIV for years said the fact that it can be managed obscures the health complications that can arise from both the virus and its medication.

This new case in London also used a stem cell transplant.

On top of that, there's the need to find a genetically matching donor - which is rare - along with the risk that the transplanted cells will not grow properly and the procedure could fail entirely, adds McGowan.

But a second instance of remission and likely cure following such a transplant will help scientists narrow the range of treatment strategies, he and others said.

The researchers caution that the approach is not appropriate as a standard HIV treatment due to the toxicity of chemotherapy, but it offers hope for new treatment strategies that might eliminate HIV altogether. He then underwent the bone marrow transplant with the HIV in his blood going undetectable. Like the first patient, he received immunosuppressive drugs; but the treatment was much less than intense than the drugs the first patient took more than a decade ago. Otwoma said although there has been a notable decline in new HIV infections, continued effort is still needed to develop an efficacious, accessible and affordable HIV vaccine. "However, the case is important as it reaffirms that the CCR5 receptor is a candidate for future research approaches in HIV remission".

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Second patient believed to be cured of AIDS