53-Year-Old Leukaemia Patient May Have Been Cured Of HIV


Surprisingly, another HIV patient went into remission after getting stem cell transplantation for leukaemia, ten years ago. He is one of the only patients to have been cured of HIV effectively.

The 53-year-old underwent a bone marrow transplant in 2013, after which he had no detectable HIV in his blood. All his treatment for the disease stopped in 2018. Moreover, high-risk treatment is suggestively an option to treat HIV.

Dr Loannis Jason Limnios (not involved in the study) said,

This study shows that transplanting blood stem cells from an HIV-resistant donor has led to the development of a new, HIV-resistant immune system in an HIV+ patient,

By following the patient for a decade after transplantation, researchers have shown that their HIV-resistant immune system is stable and working well and that the patient remains healthy after stopping antiviral therapy for 4 years.

Previous scientific evidence points out two key pieces regarding stem cell transplants for curing HIV: “the London patient” and “Berlin patient”. Both patients underwent hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Moreover, they were also successively declared free of HIV, which was known to be incurable with modern medicine. In addition, no other ways are currently present that remove the virus entirely from circulating in the blood.

From Myeloid Leukaemia to HIV Recovery

The patient was diagnosed with devastating acute myeloid leukaemia, which required a bone transplant, a very risky procedure. However, after his recovery from the surgery, he continued with his standard HIV treatment. While it was expected to continue for life, the doctors noted zero circulating pro-viral HIV-1 particles in his blood. After the patient’s consent, the antivirals were discontinued. Moreover, he was kept under monitoring to see if HIV will return.

Surprisingly, even after the treatment was stopped, no particles were found in his blood. The detailed analysis found lingering HIV DNA, however, there was no replication of threat to his body. Moreover, some small reservoirs of the virus were found within some tissues, indicating that they weren’t fully eradicated. However, the patient’s immune system stopped fending it because it was no longer a threat.

He is the only case of HIV where the patient was fully recovered, which adds further use of HSCT as a therapy against HIV and AIDS.

Dr Limnios said,

 Over the past 10 years, stem cell and gene editing technologies (such as CRISPR) have advanced medical science to a point where we can now engineer stem cells for such therapies. Rather than harvesting stem cells from donors with rare and special genetics, they can be created in specialised facilities under highly controlled conditions, and in greater quantities,

This is important and exciting progress in the fight against AIDS, however, the researchers carefully state that HIV remains hidden in other tissues of the body. So, it’s not yet clear if the type of therapy is a life-long “cure,” and the risk of passing on HIV, whilst extremely low, will never be zero using this therapy alone. 


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