A patient from Düsseldorf is now the third person who appears to have been ‘cured’ of HIV, the virus which causes AIDS.
The unidentified German male underwent a stem cell transplant several months ago and now has no signs of the virus.
A second example of a patient overcoming the symptoms of HIV was revealed just a couple of days ago, giving a strong possibility a cure is close to being confirmed.
The recent breakthrough comes more than a decade after ‘Berlin patient’ Timothy Ray Brown was cured of HIV, a feat scientists have been trying to replicate since in the battle to end the AIDS epidemic.
It’s thought there are still 37 million people across the world living with HIV.
Experts hailed the news of the London and Dusseldorf patients at a Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.
The medical milestones were the result of bone-marrow transplants, which were given to infected patients to treat cancer, not HIV. However, the treatments have been described as extremely risky and come with side effects which could trouble patients for years to come.
Timothy Ray Brown was the first person to become HIV-free after cancer treatment in 2007. To treat his leukemia, he was given a treatment which involved killing most of his immune cells with radiotherapy or drugs, and then replacing them with cells from a donor. This helped to eliminate HIV from his body and has now been repeated a decade later, after several failed attempts.
Currently, carriers of HIV are given a daily pill which suppresses the virus so it can’t be transmitted.
Unlike the patient successfully treated over a decade ago, and the London patient announced on Tuesday, the third patient hasn’t shown signs of being free from the virus for long enough to be declared in long-term remission.
The New Scientist reports there are two other HIV-positive patients who’ve undergone the stem cell transplant but they’re still taking their Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. It’s also being reported bone marrow transplants won’t be used for people with HIV who don’t have cancer, because of the risks involved in the procedure.
Dr Annemarie Wensing, a virologist at the University Medical Center Utrecht, told The New York Times news of the cases are a step in the right direction:
This will inspire people that cure is not a dream… It’s reachable.
While a long-term solution to the AIDS epidemic seems a long way off, it’s encouraging to know there seems to be a way of curing people who’ve contracted HIV.
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