The recent buzz about the discovery of the HIV cure has drawn out everyone’s attention towards the 2nd patient who had remained anonymous, dubbed as the ‘London Patient.’ He is the new patient, who had been diagnosed to be infected with the retrovirus back in 2003, and appears to be or may have been HIV-free after a special bone-marrow transplant surgery, according to the headlining report of the CROI 2019 (Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections 2019). The researchers who have carried out this particular study under the leadership of Dr. Ravindra Gupta, are strictly claiming the case not yet to be a definite cure for HIV but the patient is found to have remission from the viral infection for a long period without the intake of the antiretroviral medications for 18 months.HIV is a virus that infects through a particular set of body fluids in humans and other Primates, and it tends to hamper the human immune system by disintegrating the immune cells, CD4 cells (T cells), such that the body becomes unable to maintain the required immunity level to fight off the pathogens.
The patients with HIV are treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART) which reduces the viral load or the amount of HIV in the bloodstream. An HIV diagnosed patient when undergoes the ART, he/she can live as long as one not infected by HIV. Opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of the impaired immune system when infected by HIV, and that signifies the onset of AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
The individual male patient in the latest study appeared to have been cured of HIV. The HIV cure news emanates nearly 12 years post the day when the first patient was found to be cured, “Berlin Patient” had come forward, a feat that academics and investigators have attempted and failed to replicate. The surprise success of the London patient now opens up several doorways for determining the proper ‘cure’ for deflecting HIV infection, although figuring out such ways can be difficult according to some of the researchers.
The Berlin patient, Timothy Ray Brown had been diagnosed to be HIV positive back in 1995 and was prescribed to take the antiviral drugs, protease inhibitors, which functions by preventing viral maturation. This treatment continued for the next decade, and afterward, he was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia, a type of cancer that required him to go for four rounds of chemotherapy treatments. By the end of it, his oncologist, Dr. Gero Hütter had sent Brown’s bone marrow sample for a tissue type match to carry out the Stem Cell transplant surgery.
As soon as they found his tissue match, Tim Brown was given a treatment that disintegrated nearly all his immune cells through radiotherapy or drugs and then
Currently, the latest news as per Andrew Freedman, a clinical infectious-disease physician from the Cardiff University, the UK, who was not involved in the study stated that the patient to receive the Stem Cell transplant treatment had been showing a response similar to Brown’s. Analogous to Brown, the latest patient whose identity had not been disclosed yet, known as the “London Patient” had been diagnosed with a form of blood cancer that wasn’t responding to chemotherapy. So, they needed him to undergo a bone-marrow transplant to replenish the infected immune cells with the CCR5 mutant ones from the transplanted stem cells of the healthy donor.
The study as per Gupta, clearly indicates that Brown’s case hadn’t been a one-off. Gero Hütter, who at present is the medical director of the stem-cell company, Cellex based in Dresden, Germany, believes that Brown’s aggressive kind of treatment could only ever be used for a small set of patients, but if carried out under certain conditions with multiple modifications as per the new study can stimulate the application of gene therapy to a much broader group of people. He says, “The real breakthrough, we are still waiting for.”