A cure for HIV? It’s feasible, but still some time away

3rd patient reportedly cured of HIV in incredible medical breakthrough

3rd patient reportedly cured of HIV in incredible medical breakthrough

Another patient who received a bone marrow transplant from a donor with natural immunity to the HIV virus in Berlin 10 years ago also ended up in remission from HIV.

Although the news of a second person being cured of HIV through stem cell transplant is exciting and may pave the way for future treatments, experts say the treatment may not work in case of all patients infected with the AIDS causing virus.

Both the London patient and the Düsseldorf patients' cases were announced publicly at this week's Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, hence the quick succession.

In reality, existing prescription therapies using three HIV drugs, commonly referred to as the AIDS cocktail, are far less unsafe, less expensive and work much more effectively, even though they are not a cure and must be taken daily for a patient's life. Neither of these patients have stopped their antiviral drug regimens yet. When the patient received the donor transplants with this specific genetic mutation it also made him resistant to HIV as well.

In the United States, however, the Trump administration continues to chip away at federal funding for potentially life-saving HIV/AIDS research.

This complex treatment involves destroying a person's own immune system with high doses of chemotherapy or radiation.

Current therapies are said to be effective; meaning they help people infected with the virus live longer and healthier lives, but they are still not a cure, drugs will always be needed. As a result of this procedure, consistent with the famous "Berlin patient" Timothy Ray Brown, the "London patient" appears to be rid of measurable HIV virus.

The two recent cases are part of the IciStem program, which is a collaborative venture of researchers and clinicians dedicated to HIV eradication, according to a release from IciStem. After receiving treatment, both patients were eventually taken off their anti-retroviral medications and subsequent examination showed that that even with very sensitive blood tests, the team could not detect HIV in their blood. Patient is in HIV remission 18 months later.

Top panel illustrates the treatment course for the London patient. When HIV-infected individuals are compliant with the prescribed use of the AIDS cocktail, their viral load is undetectable and they become untransmittable, meaning they can not sexually transmit the HIV virus to others. To end the global HIV epidemic, it is extremely important that there be 100 percent universal access to these important treatments - not just to those who can afford their expensive retail prices.

The third patient, from Dusseldorf, had apparently been HIV-free for three months, with no evidence of HIV in the gut and lymph nodes.