A patient has been diagnosed as being in remission from the HIV virus, according to an article released in the Nature journal. The patient was the second who was reported to be cured in twelve years, using the same therapies as the previous patient.
While this is a hopeful leap for the treatment and eventual cure of HIV, the approach isn’t quite ready for broad use.
The treatment plan, released by scientists at Seattle’s Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, involved bone marrow transplants. The transplants were not initially intended to cure the HIV, they were a treatment modality for treating cancer. The side benefits? Placing the HIV virus into remission.
Bone marrow transplant has many side-effects and is a risky procedure, so it’s questionable if the therapy will be a widely accepted treatment plan for HIV. More likely, physicians will stick with the medications traditionally used to fight the disease.
Modified Immune Cell Replacement
Scientists are turning their focus away from treating the disease and looking at the role of modified immune cell replacement of infected cells. These cells will be modified to be resistant to HIV.
Dr. Annemarie Wensing, a University Medical Center virologist at Utrecht, Netherlands explains that the discovery will provide hope for people; a cure is within reach. Dr. Wensing is the co-leader of a group of European scientists that focused their studies on using stem cell transplants for the treatment of an HIV infection.
AMFAR, an American AIDS research group, has been behind the team of successful IciStem scientists, the second group of researchers to cure an HIV patient.
The first reported patient cured of HIV was revealed twelve years prior at the conference by a German physician who used bone marrow treatments as a cure for the patient’s leukemia. The doctor was amazed to find that the patient’s HIV was cured as well.
Researchers tried to imitate the procedure, hoping for success but to no avail. The patients either died of their cancers or after they stopped their anti-retroviral meds the virus returned.
Researchers have isolated immune cells with a mutated variety of a standard CCR5 protein. This mutation keeps the HUV virus from infecting cells by blocking the virus from attaching to white blood cells.
This treatment was nearly fatal to the first patient who tried it, but the process has been streamlined to be safer. The second patient fared better when he received a bone marrow transplant for his Hodgkin’s lymphoma. The donor had the mutated CCR5 in their donated cells.
The second patient also fortified the treatment with a cycle of immunosuppressive drugs until 2017. He then stopped taking the anti-retroviral medications and has remained free of HIV to date.