Health Desk: A study of the second HIV patient to undergo successful stem cell transplantation from donors with a HIV-resistant gene, finds that there was no active viral infection in the patient’s blood 30 months after they stopped anti-retroviral therapy, according to a case report published in The Lancet HIV journal.
Although there was no active viral infection in the patient’s body, remnants of integrated HIV-1 DNA remained in tissue samples, which were also found in the first patient to be cured of HIV. The authors suggest that these can be regarded as so-called ‘fossils’, as they are unlikely to be capable of reproducing the virus.
Lead author on the study, Professor Ravindra Kumar Gupta, University of Cambridge, UK, says: “We propose that these results represent the second ever case of a patient to be cured of HIV. It is important to note that this curative treatment is high-risk, and only used as a last resort for patients with HIV who also have life-threatening haematological malignancies. Therefore, this is not a treatment that would be offered widely to patients with HIV who are on successful antiretroviral treatment.”
While most HIV patients can manage the virus with current treatment options and have the possibility of living a long and healthy life, experimental research of this kind following patients who have undergone high-risk, last-resort curative treatments, can provide insight into how a more widely applicable cure might be developed in the future.
Comparing to the treatment used on the 1st Berlin patient, the authors highlight that their case study of the 2nd London patient represents a step towards a less intensive treatment approach, showing that the long-term remission of HIV can be achieved using reduced intensity drug regimens, with one stem cell transplant (rather than two) and without total body irradiation.
However, being only the second reported patient to undergo this experimental treatment successfully, the authors note that that the London patient will need continued monitoring.