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New therapy to cure HIV in sight?
A team of doctors recently reported having cured a man from England from the HI virus. The English patient has had no detectable signs of the virus for 18 months. He is the second known person worldwide to be cured of HIV. In the final stages, the virus triggers the deadly disease AIDS.
A team of medical professionals in England recently released a patient from the dangerous Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Apparently, the cure was a positive side effect of cancer therapy. The man suffered from Hodgkin's disease, a malignant tumor of the lymphatic system. For treatment, he received a stem cell transplant that simultaneously freed him from the HI virus. The reason: the donor had a natural mutation that protects him from some types of HIV. This mutation was transferred to the patient through the donation and thus healed him. The unusual case was recently presented in the journal "Nature".
Rare mutation suppresses HI viruses
As the doctors say, this is now the second case of this kind. Ten years ago, a Berliner had already been cured of HIV in the same way. Both patients were treated with donor stem cell transplants that had a genetic mutation that suppresses the HIV receptor CCR5.
No signs of HIV for 18 months
The English patient has stopped antiretroviral therapy for HIV for 18 months and no longer shows any detectable signs of the disease. Nevertheless, the doctors are cautious: "It is too early to say with certainty that he has been cured of HIV and his condition is still being monitored," write the University College London doctors on the rare case.
There is currently no cure for HIV
"At the moment, the only way to treat HIV is to take drugs that suppress the virus," Professor Ravindra Gupta said in a press release. People with HIV are currently dependent on medication all their lives. This is particularly challenging in developing countries. Almost 37 million people live with HIV worldwide, and around one million people still die of it every year. "Finding a way to completely eliminate the HI virus is particularly difficult because the virus integrates into the host's white blood cells," explains the professor.
About the exceptional English patient
The English patient, who prefers to remain anonymous at his own request, has been suffering from HIV infection since 2003. In 2012, he was also diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin lymphoma. In addition to chemotherapy, he then underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016. The mutation entered the patient's body through this transplant. The mutation with the complicated name CCR5 Δ32 alleles ensures that HIV-1 pathogens can no longer penetrate the host cells because the required receptor CCR5 is not accessible.
35 months after the transplant
The patient continued to take HIV medication for 16 months after the transplant. The clinical team and the patient then decided to interrupt ARV therapy to test whether HIV-1 remission was actually present. He has not taken any medication for 18 months and regular tests confirm that no viruses are detectable.
New approach to HIV therapy
"Through the remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we showed that the Berlin patient was not an anomaly," emphasizes Professor Gupta. However, this procedure is not suitable as a standard HIV treatment. The side effects of the therapy are too serious. Nevertheless, gene therapy for HIV treatment is conceivable through further research. "If we continue our research, we have to understand whether we could switch off this receptor in people with HIV," summarizes Professor Gupta. The apparent success of stem cell transplantation offers new hope in the search for a long-awaited cure for HIV and AIDS. For more information about HIV, see the article "Sexual Diseases". (vb)