It’s has been 10 years since the first case of remission from HIV-1 after ceasing treatment was reported. This case was known as the ‘Berlin Patient.’ Now, a second case has been witnessed. The current research was led by teams from University College London (UCL) and Imperial College London as published by Nature. The HIV pandemic has seen 37 million people around the world living with the virus and an estimated 1 million people succumbing to HIV-related deaths each year. This new case sheds new light and hope in the ongoing fight to prevent, treat, and cure the virus.
The Findings and Implications
In both cases, the patients received stem cell transplants from donors with a genetic mutation that prohibits the HIV receptor CCR5 from being expressed. The current subject ended his antiretroviral therapy (ARV) and has been in remission for 18 months. Scientists conducting the study say they are going to continue monitoring his health condition because it is too early to make the conclusion that he had been completely cured of HIV.
Of all the people with the virus, only 59% are on ARV treatment. This medication suppresses the virus and is the only current means of treating HIV. The drugs must be taken for life, and there are also some concerns that the virus may become drug-resistant. Many research teams around the world are working on a definitive cure to eliminate the virus altogether, but its unique nature and behavior have made this difficult.
The patient in the latest study is an anonymous male based in the UK. He has been on ARV’s since 2012 after being diagnosed with HIV in 2003. He started on chemotherapy and underwent a hematopoietic stem cell transplant after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2012. The use of chemotherapy to tackle the HIV virus is a topic that is being explored.