The "London patient" case, cautiously reported in the journal Nature as still too "premature" to be declared a cure, comes a decade after Timothy Brown, known in medical circles as the "Berlin patient" was cured by a similar stem cell transplant, galvanizing the field of HIV research and sparking the search for a cure.
The "London patient" had Hodgkin's Lymphoma and also received the same CCR5 mutation in May 2016. he has stopped taking ART drugs since 2017 and is HIV free. His transplant beat cancer without any threatening side-effects, and the transplanted immune cells that were made resistant to HIV appeared to have replaced all the HIV-vulnerable cells in his blood.
The patient, who prefers to remain anonymous, remains HIV-free to date. After two bone marrow transplants, Brown was considered cured of his HIV-1 infection.
The CCR5 gene was thrust into the worldwide spotlight recently by the revelation that a Chinese scientist had attempted to edit human embryos to create the same deletion, with the hopes of creating babies that were immune to HIV.
A second person has gone into remission from HIV after receiving a stem cell transplant, doctors have announced. This mutation of the CCR5 gene makes the people who carry it resistant to HIV. For one thing, the rare mutation in this case, a variant of a receptor called CCR5, only blocks one variety of HIV.
Brown said he would like to meet the London patient and would encourage him to go public because "it's been very useful for science and for giving hope to HIV-positive people, to people living with HIV", he told The Associated Press Monday.
"While there are important limitations to applying this study to a HIV cure globally, this second documented case does reinforce the message that HIV cures are possible".
Scientists have tried, and repeatedly failed, to duplicate the success they had in curing Brown. The "Berlin patient", who was later identified as Timothy Ray Brown, had leukemia and wasn't responding to chemotherapy.
Possibly. The London patient's immune system is now created to block HIV's most common path into cells, using the CCR5 receptor.
Nonetheless, future research into how this HIV receptor functions could bring us a lot closer to an eventual cure for HIV, which now infects around 37 million people worldwide. The London patient is one of 40 in the study.
"If you are saying that bone marrow transplants are now going to be a viable way to cure large numbers of people with HIV in a scalable way, the answer to that is absolutely not", says Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Scientist are increasingly hopeful that cure would be found soon after over 30 years of rigorous research.
"I did not want to be the only person in the world cured of HIV", Brown wrote in a medical journal in 2015, explaining why he chose to reveal his identity.
The news about the London patient also encourages Paula Cannon at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.