Second HIV patient in remission following bone-marrow transplant as researchers say they are closing in on a cure

Researchers in London are giving hope to finding a cure for AIDS after a second HIV-positive man appears to have shaken the disease following a bone-marrow transplant, according to research published Tuesday by his doctors.

Tests confirmed the man’s virus to be undetectable even though he’s been off antiretroviral therapy for 18 months, doctors said in a research paper published in the science journal Nature. The man received a bone-marrow transplant from an HIV-resistant donor almost three years ago, the same procedure that appears to have eradicated the virus in a Berlin patient more than a decade ago.

While it’s too early to say the man has been cured of HIV, researchers are optimistic.

“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 really was the treatment approaches that eliminated HIV in these two people,” the study’s lead author Ravindra Gupta said in a statement.

The man, who is referred to as the “London patient,” was diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003 and began antiretroviral therapy in 2012. Later that year, he was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin’s disease — leading to chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant.

His case comes nearly 10 years after Timothy Brown, known as the “Berlin patient,” was announced as the first person to be cured of HIV.

Both men were undergoing cancer treatments with stem cell transplants from HIV-resistant donors, researchers said. They both experienced graft-versus-host disease, which occurs when the donor’s immune cells attack the recipient’s, and that may have played a role in the treatment.

However, Brown was given two transplants while being treated for leukemia. He also underwent radiation treatment.

“Continuing our research, we need to understand if we could knock out this receptor in people with HIV, which may be possible with gene therapy,” Gupta said.

These methods aren’t appropriate as a standard HIV treatment, since there are medication combinations to help regulate the disease, doctors said.

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