3 HIV Patients Are Now Disease Free As Testing Shows Future Possibilities

Medical teams have also given the same unique treatment to two additional people, meaning the total number of cured cases may soon be five.

Scientist Rafal Kaminski, a member of the research team works to introduce cells into lightly infected HIV virus cells as part of the HIV elimination process.
Thomas Cain / Getty Images

Medical teams have also given the same unique treatment to two additional people, meaning the total number of cured cases may soon be five.

Media reports about a second HIV patient who no longer presented any signs of the disease took the world by storm earlier this week, but buried in the celebration was something even more exciting — a third patient has also had the same positive results.

Back in 2007, the first case, now known as the Berlin patient, made people wonder if HIV would soon be eradicated. It took more than a decade to make a similar process with another HIV sufferer, one who has been dubbed the London patient. As Forbes reported, medical researchers at Seattle’s Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections also unveiled news about a third person, the Dusseldorf patient.

According to Reuters, HIV has infected approximately 70 million people globally since the 1980s, and half of those people have died. Even though treatment advances mean that an HIV diagnosis today doesn’t have to be a death sentence, there are still 37 million patients battling the disease.

Thanks to these three groundbreaking cases, scientists now know that the cure for HIV is to destroy the patient’s existing immune system by introducing the mutated, HIV-resistant CCR5 gene. When this process works correctly, the newly introduced immune cells create a brand-new immune system that is no longer a hospitable environment for HIV. Two more patients are currently awaiting results for the same procedure.

As The Inquisitr previously reported, the London patient had to undergo a risky bone marrow stem cell transplant to become free of HIV. At the current time, this isn’t a viable global cure, largely due to the expense and risk associated with the transplant. In fact, agreeing to try this course of action could be even deadlier than the disease for some patients. Complicating matters even further is the rarity of the CCR5 genetic mutation, which makes it difficult to find a donor.

Some researchers caution that it may be too early to definitively say that the Dusseldorf patient has been cured. LiveScience pointed out that the patient from Dusseldorf has shown no signs of HIV after 3.5 months absent of all HIV medication. By contrast, the London patient has amassed a solid 18 months free of the disease.

The Berlin patient, also known as Timothy Brown, has remained clear of HIV for 12 years. If the London and Dusseldorf patients experience the same thing, along with the two other unnamed patients, these bone marrow stem cell transplants will likely be heralded as the cure for HIV. Despite this possibility, researchers must now figure out how to use this information to create a more viable, less risky cure before they can begin treating all of their HIV patients with it.