‘Sustained HIV remission is found in a second patient after ceasing treatment completely’ reported a paper published in Nature by researchers of University College, London and Imperial College, London. The first completely remitted case was reported 12 years before in Timothy Ray Brown, popularly known as Berlin Patient.
Stem cell transplants with genetic mutation to prevent expression of CCR5 receptor was used to treat both the patients. The patient has been in remission state for almost 18 months after ceasing therapy.
HIV is posing a great treat in developing countries and only was to eliminate HIV is with ART. Close to one million people die due to HIV related issues. Drug resistant HIV is evolving and it can cause great harm in future.
This study was carried out by a team led by Dr. Ravindra Gupta, University of Cambridge, UK. The patient was suffering from HIV since 2002, and was reported to have hodgkin’s lymphoma in 2013. For the stem cell transplant the team picked a healthy donor with two copies of mutation in the CCR5 gene, the gene that gives resistance to HIV infection.
The CCR5 gene that codes for a receptor found in the surface of WBCs, codes for body’s immune response. A mutation in this gene prevent the HIV from binding to the receptor. Thus HIV infestation is blocked. 1% of European population have a mutated CCR5 gene and is therefore resistant to HIV.
After the stem cell transplant the virus completely disappeared and even after 18 months of stoppage of treatment there is no signs of HIV.
Apart from Timothy Brown this patient received chemotherapy that targeted the cancerous cells. While Brown received an entire body radiotherapy. Dr. Gupta says that “an aggressive therapy like radiotherapy is not necessary as it can knock the bone marrow and can cause potential side effects”
Dr. Graham Cooke, a researcher from London pointed out that this method is only suitable for HIV patients with any type of cancer who is in need of a bone marrow transplant. A transplant in normal patient can cause fatal complications.
The new patient remains anonymous and the scientists refer him as the ‘London patient’
We can hope that this research can trigger and stimulate an interest in CCR5 gene targeted studies and can lead to complete cure of HIV.