04 March 2019, Paris (AFP)
A second person is in sustained remission from HIV-1, the virus that causes AIDS, after ceasing treatment and is likely cured, researchers were set to announce at a medical conference Tuesday.
Ten years after the first confirmed case of an HIV-infected person being rid of the deadly disease, a man known only as the “London patient” has shown no sign of the virus for nearly 19 months, they reported in the journal Nature.
Both patients had received bone marrow transplants to treat blood cancers, receiving stem cells from donors with a rare genetic mutation that prevents HIV from taking hold.
“By achieving remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we have shown that the Berlin patient was not an anomaly,” said lead author Ravindra Gupta, a professor at the University of Cambridge, referring to the first known functional cure.
Millions of people infected with HIV around the world keep the disease in check with so-called antiretroviral therapy (ARV), but the treatment does not rid patients of the virus.
“At the moment, the only way to treat HIV is with medications that suppress the virus, which people need to take for their entire lives,” said Gupta.
“This poses a particular challenge in developing countries,” where millions are still not receiving adequate treatment, he added. Close to 37 million people are living with HIV worldwide, but only 59 percent are receiving ARV. Nearly one million people die every year from HIV-related causes.A new drug-resistant form of HIV is also a growing concern.
Gupta and his team emphasised that bone marrow transplant — a dangerous and painful procedure — is not a viable option for HIV treatment.
But a second case of remission and likely cure following such a transplant will help scientists narrow the range of treatment strategies, he and others said.