In the News
A man has been in remission from HIV for a year and a half, without drugs, after receiving a stem cell transplant of virus-resistant cells — raising the prospect that he has become the second person to be cured of HIV infection.
The anonymous case, referred to as the “London patient” by researchers, was cautiously reported in the journal Nature as still too “premature” to be declared a cure, but is a long-awaited advance. It was scheduled to be announced Tuesday at an HIV conference in Seattle, 12 years after Timothy Ray Brown, known in medical circles as the “Berlin patient” was cured by a similar stem cell transplant, galvanizing the field of HIV research and sparking the search for a cure.
“I think this is really quite significant. It shows the Berlin patient was not just a one-off, that this is a rational approach in limited circumstances,” said Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who was not involved in the study. “Nobody doubted the truth of the report with the Berlin patient, but it was one patient. And which of the many things that were done to him contributed to the apparent cure? It wasn’t clear this could be reproduced.”
Modern drug treatments for HIV have transformed an infection that was once a death sentence into a condition that can be managed long-term, if people adhere to a lifelong medication regimen. Of the 37 million people living with HIV worldwide, 21 million have access to therapy that can keep the virus in check. The quest for a true cure has continued, driven by the need in lower-income countries, where access to drug therapy is often less certain and strains of drug-resistant virus are a bigger problem.