The patient received stem cells three years ago from an HIV-resistant donor and then went off his medication that is meant to keep the disease from growing inside the body, also known as antiretroviral treatment or ART. Researchers reported the case in the journal Nature and at this week's Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.
The first sustained remission survivor, announced in 2009 as "the Berlin patient" and later named as American Timothy Brown, was given two transplants and underwent total body irradiation to treat leukaemia - a process that almost killed him. The "London patient", who prefers to remain anonymous, has now lived without his antiretroviral drugs for 18 months, showing no signs of the virus in his body, CNN reported. "HIV is like high blood pressure; we can control the symptoms, but we can't remove the cause". "Nobody doubted the truth of the report with the Berlin patient, but it was one patient".
Several so-called "Boston patients" received stem cell transplants with functioning CCR5 genes and showed marked improvements, going months without treatment. "Radiation has a lot of side-effects and leads to a delayed recovery of the bone marrow, so it's really good that we've shown you don't need radiation". About 1 percent of people descended from northern Europeans have inherited the mutation from both parents and are immune to most HIV. "We are being cautious" to call it remission for now, he said.
Both cases involved a risky procedure called a stem-cell transplant (otherwise known as a bone marrow transplant).
A digitally colorized scanning electron microscopic (SEM) image depicts a single, red colored H9-T cell that had been infected by numerous, spheroid shaped, mustard colored human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) particles attached to the cell's surface membrane, as seen in this 2012 image obtained from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) located in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., on March 5, 2019. These efforts include editing the CCR5 gene in HIV-positive people and giving the genetically edited cells back to them.
"If we can understand better why the procedure works in some patients and not others, we will be closer to our ultimate goal of curing HIV".
Following his bone marrow transplant, the London Patient also got two copies of the CCR5 receptor.
Though the experts are excited with results, they remained conservative about the current capabilities of replicating the "cure" since tens of millions of people affected by HIV worldwide. The researchers drew their conclusions based exclusively on the London patient's blood, and will continue to monitor his health in the years to come.
"Medications used to be much more hard and have higher side effects", says Dr. Rosenthal. This crystallizes the idea that invasive, life-threatening treatments aren't required to achieve remission from HIV. Post-treatment Brown stopped taking drugs but the virus has still not returned.
Brown sat in the front row, stood for a round of applause and shook hands with lead researcher Ravindra Gupta of University College London after Gupta presented details on the London patient.