A patient in London is reportedly the second person to be cured of HIV after receiving a bone marrow transplant, according to the New York Times. The first patient, known as the “Berlin patient,” received a similar treatment in Germany.
Nearly three years after his bone marrow transplant from a person with a rare mutation that leaves them resistant to HIV, and 18 months off his antiretroviral drugs, doctors can find no trace of the HIV drug in him. Even when using highly sensitive tests, there is no evidence of his infection.
Roughly 37 million people are infected with HIV worldwide and it has killed about 35 million people since the 1980s.
However, according to the New York Times, Dr. Ravindra Gupta, a professor and HIV specialist who co-led the team of doctors treating the man, said it was too soon to say that HIV has been cured.
According to NBC News, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Disease, says that the public should not expect a widely available and safe cure for HIV anytime soon. The treatment that was given to the two previous patients is unfeasible and too dangerous to be considered a widespread cure for HIV.
“To think that bone marrow transplantation is going to be a scalable, feasible, safe way to treat infections is really, unfortunately, misleading, because it is not,” he said on MSNBC.
The mutation that affected both the HIV patients’ bone marrow transplants affects roughly 10 percent of Europeans. This mutation called CCR5 delta 32 greatly reduces the ability for the person to catch HIV and could be the eventual cure.
Scientists are looking at the CCR5 mutation to be possibly modified as a cure instead of having to put patients through a risky and painful process of a bone marrow transplant.
The patient in Britain initially received the bone marrow transplant to cure his Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a type of blood cancer. Although most experts agree that this is not a viable procedure for most people, it means getting closer to a cure that could save millions of lives.
Today, HIV is not curable but it is treatable. Patients can take a combination of drugs that will make it almost undetectable. Some experts argue that there needs to be more emphasis on reaching those diagnosed with HIV but not able to afford or have access to the drugs they need.
They argue that issue needs our attention more than finding a cure because those people are more at risk of dying from the infection.