Second patient ‘HIV-free’ after stem cell treatment

An HIV-infected man in London showed no sign of the virus for nearly 19 months after a bone marrow transplant, a report published in the science journal Nature said.

Ten years ago, a man in Berlin was cured of the deadly disease after a similar transplant.

The latest success shows HIV-related illnesses could one day be cured. At the same time, it is too early to say whether the ‘London patient’, who requested anonymity, has been cured.

Lead author of the study, Prof Ravindra Gupta of the University of Cambridge, called the latest success a landmark.

It came after 10 years when people had started to think the first success was a fluke.

Both cases show the success is real and it can be replicated. The London-patient is virus-free for now and he is functionally cured and in remission. If that state continues for three years, one can confidently say HIV would not come back to him, Gupta said.

The findings by researchers from University College and Imperial College, London, and Cambridge and Oxford Universities are set to be presented on Tuesday at a medical conference in Seattle, Washington.

Comparing the case of the ‘London patient’ with that of the ‘Berlin patient’, Timothy Brown, Gupta said the latest case shows that even milder forms of treatment can achieve full HIV remission. In Brown’s case, total body irradiation to treat leukaemia nearly killed him.

Brown and the London man received stem cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation of the CCR5 gene, making them HIV-resistant.

The London patient was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2012. He received the bone marrow transplant in 2016 and continued on anti-retroviral therapy for 16 more months before stopping the treatment.

HIV therapies help people with the virus live long and healthy lives. But a permanent cure is more welcome than a pill a day for survival.