Is A Cure For HIV Not Far Off?

by Christopher Paul on July 27, 2012

The other day, I tweeted something I found saddening: the AIDS quilt cannot fit all at once a the Mall anymore; there is not enough space to fit it all for the 25 million people who’ve died. Now, I read that doctors are hopeful that the combination of a bone marrow transplant and the anti-retroviral treatment drugs that are used in combination to keep HIV at bay might be the closest thing to a “cure” though no one wants to call it that (yet).

Both men had endured multiple rounds of treatment for lymphoma, both had stem cell treatments and both had stayed on their HIV drugs throughout. “They went through the transplants on therapy,” Kuritzkes said.

It turns out that was key.

“We found that immediately before the transplant and after the transplant, HIV DNA was in the cells. As the patients’ cells were replaced by the donor cells, the HIV DNA disappeared,” Kuritzkes said. The donor cells, it appears, killed off and replaced the infected cells. And the HIV drugs protected the donor cells while they did it.

One patient is HIV-free two years later, and the other is seemingly uninfected three-and-a-half years later.

“They still have no detectable HIV DNA in their T-cells,” Kuritzkes said. In fact, doctors can’t find any trace of HIV in their bodies – not in their blood plasma, not when they grow cells in the lab dishes, not by the most sensitive tests.

According to the article, one patient is in their 50s and had been infected at the start of the epidemic. The other patient is in their 20s and became infected during birth.

No one wants to call it a cure but it’s still encouraging news.


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