Second patient believed to be cured of AIDS

On World AIDS Day 2018 in Kolkata. ‘London Patient’ has brought excitement but a cure for HIV is still some distance away

The unexpected success has launched a new round of discussion about a potential cure for HIV. The possibility of a cure preventing HIV infection was highlighted for the first time since 2007, by a case in London, publicized on 5 March 2019.

Millions of people infected with HIV around the world keep the disease in check with so-called antiretroviral therapy (ARV), but the treatment does not rid patients of the virus. Until now, success in replicating that cure has been limited.

Normally, HIV sufferers count on to remain on everyday drugs for all times to suppress the virus.

An unnamed man in London could be the second person in history to be ever cured of HIV infection, offering hope that HIV and AIDS are curable. In the same year, nearly 1 million people died of AIDS-related illnesses and 21.7 million people had access to treatment.

"I'd rather be on the single pill a day with very little toxicities than risk something as draconian as a transplant", said Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The patient has not yet undergone testing for residual HIV in his gut, brain, or other tissues. He began taking medication to control it in 2012.

He did not experience HIV rebound, during the 18 months he did not take anti-viral medication.

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A PATIENT being treated in Britain has become only the second person in the world to be cleared of the HIV virus.

The failure rate of such transplants is high.

This is a hard treatment that carries a high risk of infection and other complications, such as graft-versus-host disease, blood clots and liver disease.

The patient, known only as "London patient" reportedly prefers to remain anonymous.

Some scientists believe that the "London patient", as he is being called, has been cured of the viral infection, which affects close to 37 million people worldwide, reported CNN. "I've had so many "milestones" in my years with HIV that I could build a highway to nowhere". Medical doctors discovered a donor with a gene mutation that confers pure resistance to HIV.

Indeed, some patients have had remission even without a bone-marrow transplant. If researchers can find a way to easily manipulate CCR5, perhaps with CRISPR gene editing, they could open up a path for H.I.V. patients to enter remission without undergoing invasive transplants.

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Top panel illustrates the treatment course for the London patient.

Around 1% of people descended from northern Europeans have inherited the mutation from both parents and are immune to most HIV.

Specialists aren't exactly sure whether the disappearance of the HIV virus was due to the mutation or whether the graft-versus-host disease, which attacked the recipient's immune cells, contributed to the disappearance of the HIV-infected cells.

"By achieving remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we have shown that the Berlin patient was not an anomaly", said lead author Ravindra Gupta, a professor at the University of Cambridge, referring to the first known functional cure. Neither should anyone else.

Also, while the London patient's cancer treatment was less intense, with just chemotherapy and the stem cell transplant, it was still toxic and is not a course of treatment that otherwise healthy people living with HIV infection should embark upon. "This case is as important as it is exciting".

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