London Patient cleared of HIV raises hope for cure

The man's doctors found a donor with a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to the HIV virus

Doctors said a London man with HIV has become the second known adult in the world to be apparently cleared of the infection since the global epidemic began decades ago, giving hope for a potential cure for AIDS.

The man, who has been HIV positive since at least 2003, now appears to have had the virus driven from his system by a very special genetic mutation present in the stem cells of a donor. He developed cancer and agreed to a stem cell transplant to treat the cancer in 2016. The title is similar to the first known case of a cured HIV-positive patient.

"The cost benefit of the prognosis following a bone marrow transplant versus that on HIV antiretroviral therapy needs serious consideration", says Professor Anthony Kelleher, Director of the Kirby Institute at UNSW Sydney.

Around 100,000 people in Britain are living with HIV and the team is now looking into whether it is possible to simply knock out the receptor through gene therapy.

The London patient said that it was "surreal" and "overwhelming" to have both his cancer and his HIV cured at the same time.

Using bone marrow transplants to cure HIV in everyone who has the virus, though, remains impractical, expensive, and risky.

His doctors found a donor with a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV.

Calling the London patient "cured" is tricky, Gupta said, because there is no standard definition for how long someone must remain free of virus and off treatment drugs. Other attempts had failed.

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According to a paper published in Nature on Tuesday, the new patient received a cancer treatment involving chemotherapy to wipe out the immune system and replace it, through a stem-cell transplant, non-malignant donor cells.

The London Patient suffered from Hodgkin's lymphoma and got a transplant from a donor with CCR5 mutation.

CCR5 is a white blood cell receptor that acts as an entry point for the HIV-1 virus, the more common form of the disease.

While this development doesn't bring a cure instantly for all patients across the world, it surely sparks some hope.

He's being the only one thought to have been cured of HIV. Brown, who required two transplants to cure his leukemia, had intensive chemical treatment and, on top of that, received whole body irradiation. He is being called "the London patient" because he was treated in the British capital. But HIV drugs have become so effective that many people carrying this infection have a normal lifespan if they take these medications for a lifetime.

The CCR5 gene, and the eponymous cell it codes for, nearly certainly play a crucial role in the collateral HIV cure.

Reports seen by Briefly.co.za today indicated that doctors conducted numerous tests on the said patient and they could not find a single trace of the HI virus three years after the bone marrow transplant procedure.

The news about the London patient also encourages Paula Cannon at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. "Some of them are directly related to the Berlin patient and work with transplantation: for example, gene modification therapy".

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