Reuters reports that the British man underwent a transplant from a bone-marrow donor who has a rare genetic mutation, CCR5 delta 32, that resists HIV. Their donors were selected for their natural immunity to HIV infection, having a variant of the gene for the CCR5 receptor that does not allow the virus to penetrate immune cells.
Nearly 12 years after the first known patient to reportedly be cured of HIV, scientists believe there is another.
Doctors found a donor with a gene-mutation that is naturally resistant to the HIV virus, according to the findings.
Adalja noted that although the Berlin patient and the London patient received similar treatments, the Berlin patient's treatment was more intense - he received two bone-marrow transplants in addition to whole-body irradiation (radiation exposure to the whole body).
Medical experts are optimistic about the apparent second cured case, but unsure what it will mean for other patients, and how treatments will differ for HIV patients who do not have cancer. Brown had to have a second stem cell transplant when his leukemia returned.
The patient voluntarily stopped taking HIV drugs to see if the virus would come back.
"Common to both approaches is the presence of a modified gene in our immune system (CCR5) that is necessary for HIV infection".
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The transplant went relatively smoothly, Gupta said, but there were some side effects, including the patient suffering a period of "graft-versus-host" disease - a condition in which donor immune cells attack the recipient's immune cells. Such transplants are risky, and both the Berlin patient and the man in the new case, called the London patient, needed the transplants to treat cancer, rather than HIV. The European group has also been tracking results from 39 HIV-positive blood stem cell transplant patients, 26 of whom are still living.
But a reservoir of cells carrying HIV can still remain in the body, in a resting state, for many years.
"CCR5 is something essential for the virus to complete its life-cycle and we can't knock out many other things without causing harm to the patient", said Gupta.
These findings demonstrate that "the Berlin patient was not an anomaly", the researchers said.
This breakthrough doesn't mean there is a cure for HIV, however, as doctors warn that bone marrow transplants are too unsafe for healthy people living with HIV to undergo.
When people have two copies (one inherited from each parent) of this mutation, it prevents blood cells from having a CCR5 receptor. Almost one million people die annually from HIV-related causes. The new patient had none of this HIV variant, which probably contributed to the success of this treatment.
The case, published online Monday by the journal Nature, was presented Tuesday at an HIV conference in Seattle.
The London patient was diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003 and had been on antiretroviral therapy since 2012. The new report shows that doctors don't have to use as intense a treatment regime as the Berlin patient underwent in order to achieve success.