London patient ‘cleared’ of HIV

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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. "It's too early to say he's cured".

Yet there may be another reason to be cautious about the London patient's potential remission. After two bone marrow transplants, Brown was considered cured of his HIV-1 infection.

"The Berlin patient" aka Timothy Brown was the first adult in the world to be declared HIV-free. He remains free of HIV today. Essentially, the mutation prevents HIV from being able to get inside people's cells, so it can not cause infection. The caveat to the terms is that there have only ever been two cases of the phenomenon throughout medical history, so they're simply unsure what the right terminology is as yet. Other attempts had failed.

The man, who was not identified, was diagnosed with HIV - the virus that causes AIDS - in 2003, according to the findings published by the journal Nature.

This suggestion that HIV might be curable has fuelled research into a cure for HIV, including the IAS's efforts, Towards an HIV Cure, established in 2012. The London patient, in contrast, had a milder regimen that targeted his lymphoma. He had leukemia and received a bone marrow transplant from someone with the CCR5 protein mutation. He and the London patient, who does not want to disclose his identity, both received stem cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation of the CCR5 gene, making them HIV-resistant.

He has now been in remission for 18 months after his antiretroviral drugs were discontinued, researchers said.

While this new patient might not unlock the cure to a disease that has killed millions of people, it does give hope to researchers that it is possible in some circumstances.

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Professor Ravindra Gupta is a virologist at University College London. "It shows the Berlin patient was not just a one-off, that this is a rational approach in limited circumstances", Daniel Kuritzkes, chief of infectious diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital (who was not involved in the study), told the paper.

But McKnight cautioned that this won't necessarily lead to a treatment for all HIV individuals. Powerful drugs are now available to control HIV infection, while the transplants are risky, with harsh side effects that can last for years.

This receptor was recently in the news after Chinese scientist He Jiankui claimed he'd edited the genes of embryos to include a protective version of CCR5.

AIDS researchers have known about the this CCR5 mutation for years and have tried to think of ways to exploit it as a treatment for HIV.

But while this might not be the end of the road in the search for a cure, it is a crucial step to get there. The man suffered from post-procedure complications whereby the donor's immune cells attacked his own.

The London man was cured after he received a bone marrow transplant from an HIV-resistant donor, his doctors said.

His doctors found a donor with a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV.