A second patient has reportedly been cured of HIV, which could be a major milestone, in the global fight against the AIDS epidemic. The report was released in the scientific journal Nature.
The patient known as the “London Patient” received a stem-cell transplant that replaced their white blood cells with HIV-resistant versions.
The patient — whose identity hasn’t been disclosed — was able to stop taking antiretroviral drugs, with no sign of the virus returning 18 months later, the journal said.
According to reports, the patient is only the second person ever reported to have been cleared of the virus using this method.
The news of the case comes nearly 12 years after the first patient known to be cured. Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the “Berlin patient,” is the first person ever cured of HIV. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1995. In 2007 he underwent a procedure known as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation to treat leukemia, performed by a team of doctors in Berlin, Germany. Over the three years after the initial transplant, and despite discontinuing antiretroviral therapy, researchers could not detect HIV in Brown’s blood.
According to the journal, so far, the latest patient to receive the treatment is showing a response similar to Brown, quoting Andrew Freedman, a clinical infectious diseases physician at Cardiff University who was not involved in the study. “There’s good reason to hope that it will have the same result,” he said.
News of possible cure is welcome considering the high rate of new HIV infections globally. An estimated 37 million people are now living with HIV around the world and more than two-thirds (70 percent) of all people living with HIV, 25.8 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa. In 2014, an estimated 1.4 million people in the region became newly infected.
While the news has ignited excitement amongst people living with HV, researchers and the general public, the fact that it took doctors 12 years to repeat this result could mean it will take many more years before this type of cure can be confirmed as a commercially viable HIV treatment method. At the moment it offers hope that a cure for HIV could be possible in the future, and not just a pipe dream.