With precocious nature of the development is taken note of, it’s safe to say we have found a cure for HIV. That’s right! The announcement came following the virus became undetectable in a patient after a stem cell transplant – the only second case of its kind.  

The individual, identified as the London patient, was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and later in 2012, with advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While still getting chemotherapy to treat Hodgkin’s cancer, he underwent haematopoietic stem cell transplant, following which both his cancer and HIV went into remission.

HIV budding from a lymphocyte (immune cell). [Image: C. Goldsmith, Wikimedia Commons ]

Experts say the patient has been in sustained remission from HIV for 18 months after he has stopped receiving his antiretroviral therapy (ARV). The first such case was seen in ‘Berlin patient’ Timothy Ray Brown. And like him, the second patient was treated with stem cell transplants from donors carrying two copies of CCR5Δ32 allele (mutated copies of CCR5 gene) which are resistant to HIV.

To put it simply, CCR5 is the most commonly used receptor by HIV, meaning the virus uses the CCR5 proteins to gain access to immune cells. But cells carrying its mutated copies prevent the virus from entering the immune cells.

“While it is too early to say with certainty that our patient is now cured of HIV, and doctors will continue to monitor his condition, the apparent success of haematopoietic stem cell transplantation offers hope in the search for a long-awaited cure for HIV/AIDS,” said Professor Eduardo Olavarria who was involved in the research in a news release.

Achieving remission for the second time using a similar approach proves the Berlin Patient case was no exception, and it simply implies that the cure for HIV is within our grasp.   

Reference: HIV-1 remission following CCR5Δ32/Δ32 haematopoietic stem-cell transplantation (Nature)