A second individual suffering from human immunodeficiency virus appears to have been cured according to reports, marking a major breakthrough in scientific advancement that could mean the elimination of the disease in the near future.
Twelve years after doctors cured an H.I.V. positive patient for the first time, a second patient appears to be in “long-term remission,” giving hope to those afflicted with the disease that a cure is no longer a pipe dream. The patient asked to remain anonymous and is referred to as the “London patient.” He received a bone-marrow transplant that appears to have cured both his cancer and H.I.V.
“I never thought that there would be a cure during my lifetime,” the patient told The New York Times.
H.I.V. is a virus spread through bodily fluids that attacks the immune system, specifically the CD4 cells, according to HIV.gov. Over time, the virus renders the body unable to fend off infections and disease. H.I.V. is largely spread through sexual intercourse and sharing needles. Mothers can, however, spread the virus to their babies by breastfeeding.
“This will inspire people that cure is not a dream,” virologist Annemarie Wensing said, according to the NYT. “It’s reachable.” Wensing heads a consortium of European scientists who work with stem cells transplanted into patients with H.I.V. in attempts to find a cure, according to The NYT.
President Donald Trump also applauded the second reported cure in a Tuesday tweet.
“HIV Is Cured In 2nd Patient, Doctors Report.” @nytimes Such great news for so many. Tremendous progress being made!(Article Continues Below Advertisement)
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 5, 2019
Timothy Ray Brown, 52, was the first H.I.V. positive patient to be cured of the virus. Like the London patient, Brown had cancer — leukemia — and was cured of both sicknesses with a bone marrow transplant, The NYT reported. Following multiple transplants and a slew of immunosuppressive drugs, Brown was placed into an induced coma and nearly died before he eventually recovered and was cured.
The London patient received a bone marrow transplant to treat his Hodgkin’s lymphoma along with immunosuppressive drugs. His treatment and suffering was far less intense than Brown’s, according to The NYT. The patient ceased taking medication to treat H.I.V. in September 2017 and has been in remission since.
“Everybody believed after the Berlin patient that you needed to nearly die basically to cure H.I.V., but now maybe you don’t,” said virologist Ravindra Gupta of University College London, the NYT reported. “I think this does change the game a little bit,” Gupta added.
For both Brown and the London patient, the bone marrow transplant successfully killed cancerous cells while simultaneously providing cells immune to H.I.V., according to The NYT. Scientists are following 38 other people with H.I.V. who’ve received transplants.
Medical experts are optimistic about the apparent second cured case, but unsure what it will mean for other patients, and how treatments will differ for H.I.V. patients who do not have cancer.
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