The Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV, can be one of the most devastating diseases a person can be infected with. The virus can go years without being noticed and has the capability to cripple the immune system. To date, scientists around the globe have been working on a cure, but to no avail. However, recent medical advances have made strides in the right direction and for the second time in history, a patient who was once HIV positive has seemingly had the disease eradicated from their body. While researchers are hesitant to call this a cure, the procedure does seem to have potential.
In 2008, Timothy Brown underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat his Leukemia. After the transplant, however, all traces of HIV in is body seemed to have vanished. Four different labs have combed through cell samples from all across Brown’s body, and each reported finding no trace of living virus specimen. Researchers believe that this effect is due to the bone marrow donor having a rare genetic mutation known as CCR5 that made his cells immune to the effects of HIV. They claim that, when the marrow was transferred from donor to recipient, this quality was transferred with it. Because of this, Timothy Brown became the first person to be ‘cured’ of HIV and he remains free of the virus to this day.
Since 2008, multiple attempts at replicating Brown’s success have been attempted. All of these attempts have failed and hope for curing HIV has seemed to diminish over the past decade. But researchers in London have recently released a report claiming that a second patient is HIV free after receiving a bone marrow transplant. While the patient is not officially ‘cured’ but instead in remission, this news brings another glimmer of hope to those suffering from and working to cure HIV.
A bone marrow transplant is considered a fairly dangerous procedure, and the CCR5 mutation is only known to cure one strain of HIV. These factors mean that the procedure is not a viable large-scale solution. However, a second patient going into remission after the same process does mean that the first was not an anomaly and the same results could, in theory, be achieved again. While a cure for HIV has not yet been discovered, new research could lead to one in the not-so-distant future.