For the second time since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, a patient with HIV is reported to be cured in London following a bone marrow transplant, raising hopes of a cure for Aids.
This is the second time a patient treated this way has ended up in remission from HIV.
According to the report published by The New York Times, the news comes nearly 12 years to the day after the first patient known to be cured, a feat that researchers have long tried, and failed, to duplicate. The surprise success now confirms that a cure for HIV infection is possible, if difficult, researchers said.
The investigators are to publish their report on Tuesday in the journal Nature and to present some of the details at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.
The male London patient, who has not been named, was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2012.
The donor – who was unrelated – had a genetic mutation known as ‘CCR5 delta 32’, which confers resistance to HIV.
He had chemotherapy to treat the Hodgkin’s cancer and, in addition, stem cells were implanted into the patient from a donor resistant to HIV, leading to both his cancer and HIV going into remission.
Researchers from University College London, Imperial College London, Cambridge and Oxford Universities were all involved in the case.
Reports from the most experts say it is inconceivable such treatments could be a way of curing all patients. The procedure is expensive, complex and risky. To do this in others, exact match donors would have to be found in the tiny proportion of people — most of them of northern European descent — who have the CCR5 mutation that makes them resistant to the virus.
Meanwhile, Ten years ago, another patient in Berlin received a bone-marrow transplant from a donor with natural immunity to the virus.
Timothy Brown, said to be the first person to “beat” HIV/Aids, was given two transplants and total body irradiation (radiotherapy) for leukaemia – a much more aggressive treatment.
“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,” said lead study author Prof Ravindra Gupta, from UCL.
However, according to the World Health Organisation about 37 million people worldwide are currently infected with HIV and the AIDS pandemic has killed about 35 million people worldwide since it began in the 1980s.
Scientific research into the complex virus has in recent years led to the development of drug combinations that can keep it at bay in most patients.