Just two days after doctors reported a second patient has been ‘cured’ of HIV, another team is saying they’ve cleared any traces of infection in a third patient — and there’s a chance a fourth and a fifth case may soon follow.
Anne-Marie Wensing, of University Medical Center Utrecht, said the patient received a bone marrow transplant to treat his leukemia. The donor has a rare genetic mutation which has resistance to HIV.
Now, three months after they stopped taking antiviral drugs, tissue samples from the patient’s gut and lymph nodes show no infectious HIV, Wensing told New Scientist.
This patient underwent the same type of bone marrow transplant as the other two HIV-free patients.
Beginning with Timothy Ray Brown’s case in 2008, there was a 12-year gap between the announcement of the first and second patients reportedly being cured of their HIV infections.
Dr. Ravindra Gupta, an HIV biologist who co-led a team of doctors treating the third patient, said the man was “functionally cured.”
He also cautioned: “It’s too early to say he’s cured,” according to Gay Star News.
(Timothy Ray Brown with the AIDS Policy Project, image via Flickr)
HIV advocates say bone marrow transplants are not a realistic procedure for people who live with HIV. It is a risky procedure, normally only given as a last-ditch effort to fight specific cancers.
Donors with the particular genetic mutation are also rare, although some scientists believe the same effects could be repeated using a new technology called CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing .
In any case, it is still an encouraging step towards finding an accessible cure to the virus which affects 37 million people worldwide.
Others also say we are not far from a way for patients living with HIV to be injected a few times a year instead of taking daily medication.
Two additional HIV patients still taking antiviral drugs have undergone the same bone marrow transplant procedure as the HIV-free patients, Javier Martinez-Picado of Barcelona’s IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute told New Scientist.
If those patients respond similarly to the other three — with their HIV gone without a trace — once they stop taking the antiviral drugs, the growing number of successful cases will make it easier to say with confidence that doctors have really found a cure for HIV.