A HIV-positive Brit has become the second person in the world to be declared in remission of the AIDS virus.
The London patient, who has not been named, has not had the virus for 18 months after receiving bone marrow stem cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV.
Alamy The man has had no sign of HIV for months
The news has been hailed as a “milestone”.
Ravindra Gupta, a professor and HIV biologist who co-led one of the teams treating him, said: “There is no virus there that we can measure. We can’t detect anything.”
The only other person to have been “cured” from HIV was the so-called ‘Berlin patient’ Timothy Ray Brown. According to experts, Brown is still HIV-free.
The latest patient has been dubbed the “London patient” as he underwent similar treatment to that of Brown.
Professor Gupta said the Brit man had contracted HIV in 2003 before being diagnosed with blood cancer Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 2012.
It wasn’t until 2016 that doctors looked for a transplant match – finding an unrelated donor who had the genetic mutation known as CCR5 delta 32.
The transplant helped the London patient’s immune system, with his body adopting the donor’s mutation and HIV resistance.
Professor Gupta told Reuters: “This was really his last chance of survival.”
While his treatment did go smoothly, he did suffer a period of “graft-versus-host” disease – a condition in which donor immune cells attack the recipient’s immune cells.
The case, published online on Monday by the journal Nature, involved researchers at four UK universities: UCL, Imperial, Oxford and Cambridge.
What is HIV?
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, and weakens your ability to fight infections and disease.
AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection, when your body can no longer fight life-threatening infections.
With treatment, most people with HIV do not ever develop AIDS.
Most infected people experience a short illness, similar to flu, two to six weeks after coming into contact with HIV.
Symptoms can include:
Joint and/or muscle pain
But experts have warned the news will not have any immediate impact for the 37 million people living with HIV worldwide.
They warned the treatments would not be able to be used to cure all patients with HIV as it is expensive, complex and risky.
Exact match donors would have to be found with the CCR5 mutation for each person.
Sharon Lewin, an expert at Australia’s Doherty Institute and co-chair of the International AIDS Society’s cure research advisory board, said: “We haven’t cured HIV, but (this) gives us hope that it’s going to be feasible one day to eliminate the virus.”
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There is currently no cure for HIV, but the effective medicines mean sufferers can now live long and healthy lives.
However in July 2017, doctors revealed that a nine-month-old child in South Africa had been “virtually cured” of HIV after he had been given a burst of treatment after birth.
Each individual sufferer’s life expectancy depends on how early they were diagnosed and treated, their gender – and whether they smoke, drink or take drugs.
AP:Associated Press Timothy Ray Brown was the first person to be cured of HIV
Eastern Europe has seen the highest ever rate of HIV infection on record
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