A Third Person May Have Been Cured Of HIV

An HIV-infected cell.Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

A third person has been cured of HIV, pointing to a possible method of curing the virus with the help of the CCR5 gene.

In the UK, a man was miraculously cured for HIV after his cancer treatment. Following that, a similar case of a cure occurred in Germany, adding to evidence that it could be possible to cure HIV.

HIV infects immune system cells. In 2007, a man known as the “Berlin patient” was the first person to be cured of HIV after cancer treatment for leukemia, which is a cancer of the immune system. His treatment killed almost all of his immune cells and then replaced them with cells from a donor who was naturally resistant to HIV due to a rare mutation in a gene called CCR5.

A second person was cured of HIV in the same manner. The “London patient” received bone marrow from a donor with the CCR5 mutation to treat Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Hodgkin's lymphoma is another cancer of immune cells. The London patient was told to stop taking the antiviral drugs that keep HIV under control about a year after treatment, and the virus has not returned eighteen months later.

At the March 4 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, a possible third case was announced, according to New Scientist. Biopsies from the “Düsseldorf patient” showed no HIV after not taking his antiviral drugs for three months.

For people who have HIV but not cancer, it is unlikely that bone marrow transplants will become their cure, as the transplants are extremely dangerous and used only as a last resort. But, these three cures suggest that it may be possible to cure HIV by mutating the CCR5 gene in another person’s immune cells.

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