In 2011 a man was cured of a HIV infection after undergoing chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant to fend off leukemia, now two more men are believed to have beat HIV infections after undergoing similar bone marrow transplants.
While HIV is no longer in the men’s blood researchers warn that HIV can hide and reveal itself at another time, however researchers believe anti-retroviral therapy mixed with marrow transplants might offer the cure they have been searching for.
Dr. Timothy Henrich, one of the researchers studying the two men tells ABC News:
“We expected HIV to vanish from the patients’ plasma, but it is surprising that we can’t find any traces of HIV in their cells. It suggests that under the cover of anti-retroviral therapy, the cells that repopulated the patient’s immune system appear to be protected from becoming re-infected with HIV.”
Unlike Timothy Ray Brown, aka the “Berlin patient” the two men treated this time were not specifically given transplants from a donor who had a genetic mutation resistant to HIV. Instead the men both received transplants with normal cells. Both men involved in the recent marrow transplants are still taking anti-retroviral medications which Brown has stopped consuming.
Researchers note that further research is necessary, including biopsies of lymphatic tissue to determine if the men treated this time around are truly free of the HIV virus.
While changing a person’s immune system may “cure” HIV the cost and dangers associated with bone marrow transplants are considered too high at this time for most patients.
In another study scientists are trying to use gene therapy to alter a patients’ immune system to rid them of HIV however a cure from that type of methodology is still years away. Some scientists believe that genetically modified stem cells resistant to HIV could one day offer a cure.
Scientists earlier in the month revealed a “roadmap for AIDs” which they hope will revitalize the HIV/Aids research community and lead to a faster cure for the deadly disease which still inflicts millions of people around the world.