Second Man Ever “Cured” Of HIV Infection

The New York Times reports:

For just the second time since the global epidemic began, a patient appears to have been cured of infection with H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. The news comes nearly 12 years to the day after the first patient known to be cured, a feat that researchers have long tried, and failed, to duplicate. The surprise success now confirms that a cure for H.I.V. infection is possible, if difficult, researchers said.

The investigators are to publish their report on Tuesday in the journal Nature and to present some of the details at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle. Publicly, the scientists are describing the case as a long-term remission. In interviews, most experts are calling it a cure, with the caveat that it is hard to know how to define the word when there are only two known instances.

Vox reports:

In the history of HIV/AIDS, only a single person is believed to have been cured of the virus. Timothy Ray Brown, an American known as the “Berlin patient,” had HIV for more than a decade, until two stem-cell transplants in 2007 and 2008 cleared it from his body.

Like Brown, the new patient had cancer and received a cancer treatment involving chemotherapy to wipe out his immune system and replace it, via a stem-cell transplant, with non-malignant donor cells. In both cases, the donor cells also carried an added benefit: a genetic mutation that leads to HIV immunity.

Reuters reports

Most experts say it is inconceivable such treatments could be a way of curing all patients. The procedure is expensive, complex and risky. To do this in others, exact match donors would have to be found in the tiny proportion of people — most of them of northern European descent — who have the CCR5 mutation that makes them resistant to the virus.

Specialists said it is also not yet clear whether the CCR5 resistance is the only key – or whether the graft versus host disease may have been just as important. Both the Berlin and London patients had this complication, which may have played a role in the loss of HIV-infected cells,