An HIV-positive person, who underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia, has had undetectable HIV viral loads for almost two years. HIV-positive man was ill from leukemia and had underwent treatment by the team led by Prof. Eckhard Thiel, director of the Medical Clinic with a focus on hematology and oncology.
German hematologist Gero Hutter of Berlin’s Charite Medical University performed a procedure on a 42-year-old American living in the city.
The patient’s bone marrow cells were replaced with those from a donor with a naturally occurring gene mutation that provides immunity to almost all strains of HIV by preventing the CCR5 molecule from appearing on the surface of cells.
Prior to the transplant, Hutter administered a standard regimen of drugs and radiation to kill the patient’s bone marrow cells and many immune-system cells, which may have helped the treatment succeed because the procedure killed many cells that harbor HIV.
Transplant specialists then ordered the patient to stop taking his antiretroviral drugs when they transfused the donor cells because they were concerned that the drugs might undermine the cells’ ability to survive in their new host. Although the plan was to resume the antiretroviral regimen once HIV re-emerged in the patient’s blood, more than 600 days later, standard tests have not detected HIV in his blood, or in brain and rectal tissues where the virus often hides.
According to some U.S. researchers, the treatment has “novel medical implications” but will ultimately “be of little immediate use” in treating HIV/AIDS. This study may inspire a greater interest in gene therapy to fight the disease that claims two million lives each year.
According to physicians at the Berlin hospital, they are continuing to monitor the patient’s health and are prepared to put him back on antiretrovirals if the virus reappears.
Source: Charite Medical University, Germany