Second case of elimination of HIV

Second case of elimination of HIV


After the transplant of stem cells, and a very aggressive therapy, no traces of the virus have been detected in the patient’s body.

A patient’s HIV in the United Kingdom can no longer be detected after having a stem cell transplant.

This milestone in medicine has been achieved only once more, the doctors reported to the scientific journal Nature .

The patient, from London, was receiving cancer treatment and it has been 18 months since the HIV virus is in a state of remission in his body. All in spite of the fact that he is no longer taking antiretrovirals.

The researchers say it is too early to say that the patient is “cured” of HIV and they recognize that the applied therapy is very specific so that the vast majority of people with HIV can be treated generically.

In spite of everything, they believe that yes it can give clues to find someday the definitive cure for HIV.

How does it work?

The treatment uses the genetic mutation of an HIV-resistant donor. CCR5 is the most common receptor that the HIV-1 strain of the virus – the dominant one in the world – uses to enter our body.

But HIV-resistant people have two mutated copies of the CCR5 receptor, which prevents the virus from penetrating body cells.


Laboratory image
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption Stem cell transplantation served to make the patient resistant to the AIDS virus.


The patient, male and whose identity was not revealed, received stem cells from a donor with this specific genetic mutation and also managed to become resistant to HIV.

In spite of everything, your body can maintain a reserve of HIV-carrying cells in a state of rest for many years.

The man was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and contracted Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a type of cancer) in 2012.

He underwent chemotherapy to treat the lymphoma and, in addition, he was implanted with stem cells from an HIV-resistant donor. That, according to scientists, caused both cancer and HIV to go into remission.

Researchers from University College London (UCL), Imperial College London, University of Cambridge and University of Oxford participated in the case of this patient.

It is not a unique case

This is the second time that a patient receiving this treatment achieves a remission of HIV. Ten years ago, a patient in Berlin received a bone marrow transplant from a donor who was naturally immune to the virus.


Laboratory sample
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption 18 months after treatment, the patient was not detected any remains of the virus in the body.


Timothy Brown, who is said to have been the first person to “beat” HIV, received two transplants and radiation therapy for leukemia, 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 was really the treatment focus that has managed to eliminate HIV in these two people” , said the study’s lead author, Professor Ravindra Gupta, of UCL.


But despite the incredible results of treatment in these two patients, they should be taken with caution, warn from the scientific community.

“Although the finding is exciting, it does not offer a new treatment for the millions of people around the world who are living with HIV.” This very aggressive therapy was used primarily to treat the patient’s cancer, not their HIV, explains the BBC Health Editor, Michelle Roberts.

“Current therapies for HIV are really effective, which means that people with the virus can live long and healthy lives,” says Roberts.

“But the reason why this case is so important is that it could help experts looking for new ways to approach HIV and achieve a cure.”

“Understanding how the body can naturally resist infection offers hope for this, even if it is still far away,” he adds.

Professor Eduardo Olavarría, also involved in research and part of the team of researchers at Imperial College London, says that the success of stem cell transplant opens the door to new ways of attacking the virus .

But he was also cautious: “It is not a standard treatment against HIV because chemotherapy is very aggressive , what happens is that in the latter case it was required to treat lymphoma.”


Antiretroviral pills for HIV.
Copyright of the GETTY IMAGES image
Image caption The patient does not need to take antiretrovirals to control HIV.


Researchers in the UK say that this gene therapy can be used to attack the CCR5 receptor in people with HIV now that they know that the patient’s recovery from Berlin was not unique.

Graham Cooke, a research professor at the National Institute of Health Research in the UK and professor of infectious diseases at Imperial College London, called the results “encouraging . 

“If we can better understand why the procedure works in some patients and not in others, we will be closer to our ultimate goal of curing HIV .”

“At this time, the procedure still involves too many risks for it to be used in patients who enjoy a good quality of life.”

“Potentially significant”

Dr. Andrew Freedman, professor of infectious diseases and honorary medical consultant at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom, said the case was “interesting and potentially significant,” but he also warned that a much longer follow-up of the patient is necessary to ensure that the virus does not reappear.


Cells infected with HIV.
Copyright of the image CIE PHOTOGRAPHY LIBRARY
Image caption There are very few people in the world with a genetic mutation that makes them resistant to HIV.


“While this type of treatment is clearly not practical to treat the millions of people around the world living with HIV, cases like these can help develop a definitive cure for HIV.”

Until this happens, he recalled, it is important to focus on the early diagnosis of HIV and the provision of antiretrovirals to people living with the virus.

This can prevent VHI from being transmitted and give people with HIV an almost normal quality of life.

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