Second patient ever in HIV remission after stem cell transplant

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The details: The patient received a stem cell transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that makes them HIV-resistant. That man, Timothy Ray Brown (known only as the "Berlin patient" at the time), received a similar bone marrow transplant which cured him of the disease.

"The so-called London Patient has now been off ART for 19 months with no viral rebound which is impressive, but I would still be closely monitoring his viral load", said Lewin, who is also co-chair of the International AIDS Society's Towards an HIV Cure initiative.

Brown was given two stem cell transplants and radiotherapy for leukaemia, which is considered a much more aggressive form of treatment.

"This second documented case does reinforce the message that HIV cures are possible", says infection and immunity researcher Anthony Kelleher from UNSW in Australia, who wasn't involved with the study. Scientists have wondered, however, whether this good fortune could be shared around by injecting stem cells from people with two Δ32 copies into HIV patients. Nearly one million people die annually from HIV-related causes.

Experts universally hailed the case, even as they cautioned that the procedure that resulted in the likely cure - a bone marrow transplant to treat blood cancer - is too risky and costly to be applied as a general treatment for HIV, which can today easily be managed, though not cured, with pills.

Researchers are developing better antiretroviral treatments, prevention methods, and vaccines to halt infections while continuing to pursue a cure for those already infected.

Now, doctors in Europe are reporting a second case of HIV remission after a similar stem cell transplant.

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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. In this case, the patient had an HIV infection for almost a decade that was being kept in check with antiviral therapies that were tailored to his virus' genotype.

The case, published online Monday by the journal Nature, was presented Tuesday at an HIV conference in Seattle.

A bit over two months after the transplant, the patient showed signs that his new immune system was attacking his own cells. "After a ten year gap it provides important confirmation that the "Berlin patient" was not simply an anomaly". Brown, also known as the Berlin patient, had been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, while the London patient had Hodgkin's lymphoma. Unlike Brown, though, the London patient did not have to go through a horrific, near-death experience to reap the benefits of the therapy.

Hopes that a cure will be available to all any time soon are misplaced though.

A United Kingdom patient's HIV has become "undetectable" following a stem cell transplant - in only the second case of its kind, doctors report in Nature. The patient's immune cells remain unable to express the CCR5 receptor.

He said: "But what we are able to say with certainty is that, through early diagnosis and access to treatment, you can live a long, healthy life with HIV and be confident you won't pass the virus to your sexual partners".

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