Scientists report a second person has HIV in remission

Scientist are reporting that they have successfully removed HIV from a person’s system placing them into long term remission.

It’s only the second time in the history of the epidemic that HIV has been completely removed from a person’s system. The first case was 12 years ago, and scientists have highlighted that the case shows how hard it is to completely remove the virus, but they believe it is possible.

The New York Times has reported that investigators are to publish their report in the journal Nature and will present some of their findings at an upcoming conference in Seattle.

Both cases have involved bone marrow transplants, the patients were being treated for cancer, and removing HIV from their systems was a secondary outcome of their treatment.

Scientist have noted that the current medical treatments for HIV which lower the amount of HIV in a person’s system to a level where they can no longer pass on the virus is a more effective treatment path, because undergoing a bone marrow transplant is a risky procedure that has many side effects and long term health implications.

“This will inspire people that cure is not a dream,” said Dr. Annemarie Wensing, a virologist at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands. “It’s reachable.”

It has been suggested that rearming the body with immune cells modified to resist HIV may be the best way forward in working towards a cure.

In 2007 scientists reported on the case of ‘the Berlin patient’, he is now know to be 52 year old Timothy Ray Brown who lives in Palm Springs, California. While undergoing cancer treatment doctors discovered he had also been cured of HIV.

However attempts to replicate the treatment in other cancer patients who carried the vitus have not been successful. Often HIV would return to their systems after 9 months, or they would succumb to the cancer they were being treated for.

The new patient has chosen to remain anonymous but is being referred to as ‘The London Patient’. While receiving treatment for Hodgkin’s Lymphoma he received a bone marrow transplant with a specific CCR5 mutation. A year after he stopped taking HIV medication the virus has not returned to his system.

While treating people with bone marrow transplants does not appear to be an effective way to remove HIV, it does give scientists a greater understanding of gene based approaches for future research.

OIP Staff