A patient in California appears to have been cured of the human immunodeficiency virus, according to doctors (HIV). It’s the fourth time that the virus appears to have been eradicated from someone in the entire world.
The patient has had HIV since the 1980s; he is a 66-year-old male who otherwise requested anonymity. The patient was taking antiretroviral medications, which have been used for the past few decades to stop the virus from multiplying in the body, prior to receiving the treatment that appears to have healed him. These medications have the potential to prolong the life of an HIV-positive patient, but they can have unfavorable side effects, such as bone loss and gastrointestinal problems. The management of these reactions over time is challenging.
However, eliminating the virus permanently can spare someone from having to deal with unpleasant side effects for an extended length of time. Just make sure the pathogen is eradicated permanently. At the City of Hope National Medical Center in Duarte, California, this patient underwent a bone marrow transplant. The donor was naturally resistant to HIV due to a protein mutation in the donor’s white blood cells. The patient benefited from the mutation, called CCR5-Δ32 (pronounced “CCR5-delta 32”), in the days following his transplant. The patient’s body eventually lost the ability to recognize HIV. This occurred 17 months ago. Since then, the patient has been in remission.
Despite what appears to be a miracle, there are some caveats to the patient’s success story. The patient only underwent a blood cancer leukemia transplant after being diagnosed; his donor just so happened to have the CCR5-Δ32 mutation. Additionally painful and challenging, blood marrow transplants are unsuitable for routine use with HIV-positive patients.
Medical professionals caution that the CCR5-Δ32 variation is likewise very uncommon, particularly in those who are not of European origin. Some people also worry that the variation itself would make people live shorter lives. To determine whether it is safe to “give” the variant to others, more investigation is necessary.
Of fact, there is a chance that CCR5-Δ32 proves to be secure for use in more HIV treatments (or at least worth its disadvantages, given those associated with HIV). In such event, it is hoped that physicians will be well-prepared as researchers look for ways to combine gene therapy with CCR5-Δ32.