Steven Deeks, an HIV researcher at UCSF, says the results could also boost cure efforts to cripple CCR5 "without the need for heroic interventions such as in the Berlin and London cases". But doctors cautioned against calling the patient's results a cure for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Doctors said a London man with HIV has become the second known adult in the world to be apparently cleared of the infection since the global epidemic began decades ago, giving hope for a potential cure for AIDS.
What Antiretroviral Therapy offers drugs that have made it possible for HIV patients to live a long life, a cure is still elusive. About 37 million people worldwide now have HIV, and the AIDS virus has killed about 35 million since taking off in the 1980s.
Nearly 1 million people die annually from HIV-related causes.
In some of the past transplant failures, the donor did not have a mutated CCR5, but the conditioning regimen seemed to have significantly reduced the "reservoirs" of cells in the recipient that have latent HIV infections, invisible to the immune system.
But a second case of remission and likely cure following such a transplant will help scientists narrow the range of treatment strategies, he and others said.
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"Finding a way to eliminate the virus entirely is an urgent global priority, but is particularly hard because the virus integrates into the white blood cells of its host", Gupta explained.
"This research further confirms the promising HIV curative effects of bone marrow transplantation from the relatively few persons who have the HIV-resistant cells known as CCR5/delta32 hematopoietic stem cells". Later, he was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma. The donor had this double copy of the mutation. He added that it could lead to a simpler approach that could be used more widely. Beforehand, each had been treated with toxic chemicals in a "conditioning" regimen meant to kill off their existing cancerous bone marrow cells.
But replacing immune cells with those that do not have the CCR5 receptor appears to be key in preventing HIV from rebounding after the treatment.
For this reason, he's often described as being the first patient "cured" of HIV, although technically that's incorrect, since remission and cures are not the same thing (as sometimes remissions are not complete, if the viral load stages a resurgence).
Timothy Ray Brown, 52, formerly referred to as the "Berlin patient", also underwent a bone-marrow transplant to treat his Leukemia.
Sharon Lewin, an expert at Australia's Doherty Institute and co-chair of the International AIDS Society's cure research advisory board, told Reuters news agency the London case points to new avenues for study. The patient was receiving the bone marrow transplant for cancer.
Sixteen months after the procedure (which notably didn't include radiotherapy, unlike the Berlin patient), the London patient discontinued ARV drugs (aka ART therapy), and has now been in HIV remission for over 18 months.