Another HIV Patient Was Cured, and Here Is How Scientists Did It
It’s a known fact that there’s no cure for HIV, and despite the fact that it affects 36.9 million people around the world, the virus epidemic continues to spread since it first appeared in the 1980s. Even though there are some antiretroviral medicines that can help the virus, it’s not being cured but rather, suppressed, and unfortunately, these aren’t always effective. Scientists, however, have managed to make a huge breakthrough for the second time by curing an HIV adult patient in London.
The Bright Side team is excited to share with you how this groundbreaking scientific achievement happened and what it could mean for the rest of the world that is affected by the virus.
The first time this happened was back in 2007 when a man from Belgium, Timothy Ray Brown, was cured of HIV. This happened when he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and had undergone chemotherapy, radiation and finally, stem cell transplant.
Here is where it gets interesting. The stem cell donor who was a match with Thomas Brown also had CCR5 which is a gene mutation that made him immune to the HIV virus. After Thomas had undergone the stem cell transplant surgery and had stopped all the medication he was taking, the tests had shown that the HIV virus was gone and he was cured.
However, after many trials, the doctors couldn't replicate the results and after failing many times, they stopped. This is because they found that the stem cell transplant was a difficult and risky procedure. In addition to this, Professor Ravindra Gupta and his team from the University College of London did not agree with the stem cell procedure and explained in their paper that not only was it very dangerous, it was also very expensive and would cost a lot of money to try and cure all the people with HIV. So, they put their efforts into researching and developing something else.
This is where the magic began. About a decade later, another patient from London, whose name is still anonymous, was the second person who was cured of HIV and it raised a lot of hope for the rest of the world. The patient had contracted HIV back in 2003 and was then diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma (a rare form of cancer in the lymphatic system which is part of the immune system) in 2012. 4 years later in 2016, the patient got very ill and the doctors found an unrelated stem cell transplant donor who also had the CCR5 genetic mutation which made them immune to the HIV virus.
The surgery went really smoothly but there were some side effects later. Since the donor's immune cells started attacking the patients' immune cells, the patient went through a graft versus host disease for a short period of time. Finally, the results were in and it showed that the virus was nowhere to be found and he was finally able to stop his antiretroviral medicines. After that, the doctors in London pronounced him the second man to be cured of HIV.
Dr. Ravindra Gupta who co-led the team to help the patient be cured of HIV said that they are now on the path to find what method they can use to cure HIV. They know that the CCR5 gene mutation plays a key role but they want to find out if that is the only key or if there are other factors contributing to the result.
In addition, Anton Pozniak who is the president of the International AIDS Society said that this second case proves that there is a cure for HIV and scientists are finally close to a breakthrough.
Do you think the scientists are close to finding the cure? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Preview photo credit Timothy Ray Brown / Facebook