There are few people in this world as lucky as Timothy Brown, or the Berlin patient, as he is popularly called now. This is because Mr. Brown was the first person in the history of HIV treatment who was cured of the deadly AIDS-causing virus. Now, twelve years later, another man (called the London Patient) is believed to have attained sustained remission from HIV-1, the virus that affects 37 million people worldwide.
Both the patients were treated with stem cell transplants from donors who carried a rare genetic mutation that made them resistant to HIV. Interestingly, the main aim of the transplant was to treat cancer in patients and not HIV. The first patient was in remission for 18 months before he stopped taking the medicines. A similar approach was followed in the second patient, thereby proving that the first case was not an anomaly and it was the treatment that cured HIV in both the cases.
The London Patient, who prefers to remain anonymous, was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and later with advanced Hodgkin's lymphoma. After an antiretroviral therapy and chemotherapy, he underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016. He continued the antiretroviral therapy for the subsequent 16 months. For the last 18 months, he has been in remission and regular testing confirms that HIV traces are undetectable in his body.
A detailed report will be published in the journal Nature and selected details will be presented at the Conference on Retroviruses And Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.
The first case of successful treatment happened around twelve years back after which researchers made innumerable attempts to replicate the procedure but failed.
It is still not sure how effective these transplants will be in the future as experts claim that they are risky and may have long-term side effects. Also, though most experts are calling it a cure it is still too early to say anything as there are only two known instances of reportedly cured patients. However, the good news brings a hope among patients and their families that a cure is not impossible.
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