Cure for HIV?

Cure for HIV?


Reposted from Get your Own Soapbox
Get your Own Soapbox


Quite a number of people have asked me about the two men from Boston about whom a report is circulating that they have been cured of HIV. While these two men, another man dubbed the Berlin patient, and a young child seemingly have been cured of HIV all 4 are functionally considered cured of HIV. People have asked me if that means there is a cure.

It doesn’t. For it to be a cure, it would need to be accessible to all HIV positive people. The treatment used to cure the three men, beginning first with the Berlin patient leading to the Boston patients, was a bone marrow stem-cell transplant. The Berlin patient had two bone marrow transplants to treat acute myeloid leukemia. He received marrow from a donor who carried a gene mutation that is naturally resistant to HIV. The natural resistance from the donor transferred to the Berlin Patient. He has not needed HIV medication since the 2007 surgery.

Earlier in 2012 doctors found traces of HIV in the Berlin patient, but the Doctor who performed the original surgeries Dr Gero Hutter said the traces are remnants of the disease that can’t replicate or cause a recurrence.

The procedure lead another group of researchers in Boston to examine separate components of the Berlin case, which included conditioning regimen (medications used to treat HIV), a stem cell transplant, GVHD (graft versus host disease) and mutant, HIV resistant cells. They looked at how each isolated component to understand their individual effect on the virus. They studied the specifically blood of two patients who underwent stem cell transplants for treatment of lymphoma. Unlike the Berlin patient’s donor the cells were not resistant to HIV. However just like the Berlin patient, over time the donor cells replaced the patients’ own immune cells.

The researchers found the two patients became undetectable following the transplant and have remained so for both patients currently. Both patients we kept on ART to protect the donor cells from HIV. The donor cells then repopulated the patients’ immune systems, effectively clearing the HIV virus from both.

While these three individuals may have been functionally cured. This approach won’t work for most HIV positive individuals. First a bone marrow transplant is a serious procedure. The procedure carries significant risk of morbidity and mortality. 30% of patients do not survive. Secondly the two Boston patients have not gone off antiretroviral therapy so Doctors cannot be sure that the virus won’t rebound when the suppressive drugs are stopped. In the case of the Berlin patient HIV resistant donor cells were used in the bone marrow transplant. Only about 1% of northern Europeans carry the HIV resistant mutation. Which makes it extremely difficult to match per individual case.

The three men are functionally cured of HIV. Meaning they do not suffer the sometimes severe effects of HIV. However their cases are inroads to better understanding HIV and its treatment. A lot of this information is complicated. Without a medical background or deep understanding of HIV, it’s hard to wrap you mind around all of the data involved with these cases. But I am here to say we are closer to a cure then we have ever been. It may very well be on the horizon, but its not here yet.

Understand the three men considered to be cured were quite ill before receiving these experimental treatments. All three had a form of cancer related to HIV infection. They were severe cases where untested, experimental treatments were used.

While researchers are working to find better treatments, they hope to find a cure. Today treatments for HIV work. Antiretroviral drugs work. In many of the people I know who are currently HIV positive they have reached a viral plateau often called undetectable, which means the HIV in the blood is barely detectable in the blood. Which means the suppressive nature of anti-retro viral drugs work.

The treatments of today allow people who are HIV positive to live long healthy lives. Of course some adjustments are needed per individual such a diet, behavior, and other health related items. However the bottom line HIV is not the death sentence it once was. With hope and determination I’m sure we will see if not a cure at least a way to treat the virus outright, minimizing its effects on the body.

Below are some links about the Boston patients, and the Berlin patient, and how the research led to the Boston patients.

Boston Patients

how the research came along

Berlin Patient

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