An HIV-positive man who received a stem cell transplant for leukemia has been cured of HIV infection, doctors announced recently.
While the case was first reported at the 2008 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston, doctors have now published an updated report in the journal Blood, which affirms extensive testing.
"It is reasonable to conclude that cure of HIV infection has been achieved in this patient," the doctors wrote.
In 2007, Timothy Ray Brown suffered a relapse of leukemia that required a stem cell tranplant. Brown, also known as "Berlin patient," was given stem cells from a donor that lacked the CCR5 receptor, "a condition that is present in less than 1 percent of Caucasians in northern and western Europe," according to London-based AidsMap.
"The man received bone marrow from a donor who had natural resistance to HIV infection; this was due to a genetic profile which led to the CCR5 co-receptor being absent from his cells," they explained. "The most common variety of HIV uses CCR5 as its ‘docking station’, attaching to it in order to enter and infect CD4 cells, and people with this mutation are almost completely protected against infection."
The case appears to prove that stem cell driven treatments could be incredibly valuable in a variety of applications, including HIV therapies.
Although antiretroviral drugs have made HIV infection treatable, this is the first time a person has been reportedly cured.
Doctors recently announced that an antiretroviral pill called Truvada reduced the risk of HIV infection by 44 percent. Time magazine named the drug one of the top ten medical breakthroughs in 2010.