Watch the moment the ‘Berlin patient’ reveals he is cured of HIV in the video below.
Video credit: AFP news agency
A man from the UK who was suffering from HIV has become the second person ever to be cured of the virus, a recent study has found.
The unidentified man, known as the ‘London patient’ is free of the virus for the past 18 months after he underwent a risky stem cell treatment.
The first person who survived this life-threatening technique, and got free from HIV, was Timothy Ray Brown, famously known as the ‘Berlin patient’.
Brown, a US citizen, was treated in Germany around 12 years ago.
Except for stem cell transplant, every other attempt has failed to cure HIV without causing deadly and devastating consequences.
Though experts have welcomed the news as a great milestone but have warned that the same can’t be applied to the other 37 million people living with the virus, as both the treated men were in the advanced stages of cancer.
The London patient had Hodgkin’s lymphoma while the Berlin patient had leukemia. A complex and life-threatening stem cell transplant was the last resort for these two men to give life another chance.
Dr Anthony Fauci, head of the HIV/AIDS division at the National Institutes of Health, told Daily Mail that the successful treatment of the ‘London Patient’ proves the hypothesis that donor cells from HIV-resistant persons can end a recipient’s HIV only if the recipient survives the transplant.
‘But it’s completely non-practical from the standpoint for the broad array of people who want to get cured,’ Dr Fauci added.
‘If I have Hodgkin’s disease or myeloid leukemia that’s going to kill me anyway, and I need to have a stem cell transplant, and I also happen to have HIV, then this is very interesting.
‘But this is not applicable to the millions of people who don’t need a stem cell transplant.’
HIV expert, Dr Janet Siliciano of Johns Hopkins, said the findings have limited applications as of now but still it’s a major breakthrough in our understanding of HIV.
‘I think it’s very exciting,’ Dr Siliciano told Daily Mail. ‘Now we know that it’s not just the Berlin patient. Now we know that n=2.’
Dr Siliciano sees this case as the latest in a series of developments against HIV that will pave way for more breakthroughs.
‘All these studies of “cure” of “near-cure” cases have been very, very informative,’ Dr Siliciano said of various studies that have been conducted in recent years.
‘Every single one of them has guided the field in how we think about approaches to eliminating the latent reservoir.’
After the results of the recent study were made public, Brown showed a wish to meet the London patient.
He told The Associated Press that he would encourage the unidentified man to go public because ‘it’s been very useful for science and for giving hope to HIV-positive people, to people living with HIV.’
Lead doctor in Brown’s case, Dr Gero Hutter from Germany, hailed the new case a ‘great news’ and another ‘piece in the HIV cure puzzle.’
The news was welcomed by almost all infectious diseases experts across the UK as well as other parts of the globe.
Dr Andrew Freedman, a professor at Cardiff University, said: ‘This an interesting and potentially significant report of a second patient whose HIV infection has gone into remission after receiving a stem cell transplant as part of treatment for a haematological malignancy.
‘As with the “Berlin patient” who remains free of all traces of the virus more than 10 years later, this patient received stem cells from a donor with a specific genetic mutation rendering them resistant to HIV.
‘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.
‘This is likely to be many years away and until then, the emphasis needs to remain on prompt diagnosis of HIV and initiation of life-long combination antiretroviral therapy (cART).
‘cART is highly effective both in restoring near normal life expectancy and preventing onward transmission to others.’
Áine McKnight, a professor at the Queen Mary University of London, said: ‘This is a highly significant study. After a ten year gap it provides important confirmation that the “Berlin patient” was not simply an anomaly.’
Graham Cooke, a professor at Imperial College London, said: ‘This second “London patient”, whose HIV has been controlled following bone marrow transplantation, is encouraging.
‘Other patients treated in a similar way since the “Berlin patient” have not seen similar results.
‘This should encourage HIV patients needing bone marrow transplantation. 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, as daily tablet treatment for HIV is able to usually able to maintain patient’s long-term health.’
“Elton John and Prince Harry speak at the AIDS conference in July”