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25 March, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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HIV/AIDS: Hope of a cure

BBC News Health
HIV/AIDS: Hope of a cure

Michelle Roberts

Although the finding is exciting, it is not offering up a new treatment for the millions of people around the world living with HIV.

The aggressive therapy was primarily used to treat the patient's cancer, not his HIV.

Current HIV therapies are really effective, meaning people with the virus can live long and healthy lives.

But the reason this case is so significant is that it could help experts who are looking for new ways to tackle HIV and achieve a cure.

Understanding how the body can naturally resist the infection does offer up hope of this, even if it is still a long way off.

Prof Eduardo Olavarria, also involved in the research, from Imperial College London, said the success of stem cell transplantation offered hope that new strategies could be developed to tackle the virus.

But he added: "The treatment is not appropriate as a standard HIV treatment because of the toxicity of chemotherapy, which in this case was required to treat the lymphoma."

 

The patient was able to stop taking antiretroviral therapy drugs to control his HIV

How does it work?

CCR5 is the most commonly used receptor by HIV-1 - the virus strain of HIV that dominates around the world - to enter cells.

But a very small number of people who are resistant to HIV have two mutated copies of the CCR5 receptor.

This means the virus cannot penetrate cells in the body that it normally infects.

The London patient received stem cells from a donor with this specific genetic mutation, which made him resistant to HIV as well.

But a reservoir of cells carrying HIV can still remain in the body, in a resting state, for many years.

The UK researchers say it may be possible to use gene therapy to target the CCR5 receptor in people with HIV, now they know the Berlin patient's recovery was not a one-off.

Prof Graham Cooke, National Institute for Health Research research professor and reader in infectious diseases from Imperial College London, said the results were "encouraging".

"If we can understand better why the procedure works in some patients and not others, we will be closer to our ultimate goal of curing HIV.

"At the moment the procedure still carries too much risk to be used in patients who are otherwise well."

'Potentially significant'

Dr Andrew Freedman, reader in infectious diseases and honorary consultant physician at Cardiff University, said it was an "interesting and potentially significant report".

But he said much longer follow-up would be needed to ensure the virus did not re-emerge at a later stage.

"While this type of treatment is clearly not practical to treat the millions of people around the world living with HIV, reports such as these may help in the ultimate development of a cure for HIV."

In the meantime, he said the focus needed to be on diagnosing HIV promptly and starting patients on lifelong combination antiretroviral therapy (cART).

This can prevent the virus being transmitted to others and give people with HIV a near-normal life expectancy.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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