Could the cure for H.I.V be in sight?
Sexually transmitted viruses are no joking matter; most of us have had the fear of contracting such diseases instilled into us since our high school sex education classes. The goliath of all sexual viruses, H.I.V has loomed over the world taking countless lives and changing the lives of millions of people; whether it be from contracting the virus or trying to support loved ones fighting the disease. Though treatment for the virus has progressed through the years making living with H.I.V much more manageable and the introduction of PREP, has helped reduce the risk of contracting the virus, scientist still struggle in finding a cure that will target and eliminate the virus completely. But could the cure to H.I.V be in sight?
Like many other medical breakthroughs could the cure to H.I.V have been stumbled upon accidentally? When trying to treat Timothy Brown (Berlin Patient) from leukemia, he received a bone marrow transplant from a donor who happened to have a protein mutation known as CCR5. This mutation is unusual in that it makes the virus struggle to attach to individual receptors resulting in a partial immunity to the virus, depending if you inherit this mutation from both parents you may have a stronger resistance. This happens because the delta 32 version of the CCR5 gene makes few to no receptors making it difficult for the virus to attach to the cell. Mr. Brown received a bone marrow transplant and immunosuppressive drugs, which after nearly dying and being placed into a medically- induced coma depleted his infected H.I.V cells and seemed to have cured the H.I.V virus, making him the first patient to beat the virus.
Supporting this breakthrough is a case of another patient, 12 years after Mr. Brown’s case, a Hodgkin’s lymphoma patient had the same results. The second cured patient has chosen to remain anonymous, but scientists refer to him as the “London Patient.” Scientist for years had tried to replicate Mr. Brown’s treatment but worried the process was too dangerous and damaging. To their surprise, the London patient received the same results with more modern and safer immunosuppressive drugs and the same bone marrow transplant from a donor with the CCR5 mutation. Starting in September of 2017 the London Patient quit taking his anti-H.I.V. medication and has remained virus free for a year, making him the first patient since Mr. Brown to be cured. The London patient can tribute the transplant for destroying his cancer without the harmful side effects Mr. Brown exhibited and the transplanted immune cells successfully replaced the vulnerable cells and are now resistant against H.I.V.
To further encourage this data scientists are tracking 38 H.I.V. positive patients receiving bone marrow transplants, 32 of which received transplants with the mutation. Patient number 19 on the list known as the “Düsseldorf patient,” has been off anti-H.I.V medication for four months successfully.
So how do scientist analyze all of this? Well according to Dr. Annemaire Wensing, a virologist at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands the cure is not just a dream; it is in fact within reach. Dr. Wensing is the co-leader of IceStern a consortium of European scientist backed by the American Aids research organization (amFAR). These scientists specialize in the studying of stem cell transplant to treat H.I.V. infection. Though there is still speculation as to whether these were rare cases or proven cures, Dr. Anthony Fauci director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease states “It was done with Timothy Ray Brown, and now here’s another case – ok, so now what? Now where do we go with it?” Dr. Deeks, an AIDs expert at the University of California, San Francisco who had treated Mr. Brown states “some possibility is to develop gene therapy approaches to knock out CCR5 on the immune cell or their predecessor stem cells. Resistant to H.I.V. infection, these modified cells should eventually clear the body of the virus.” We don’t know what the future holds but it most certainly looks promising.
If you’re a WorldCare member and have been diagnosed with H.I.V and want a medical second opinion contact us today.