Published July 27, 2012
The HIV virus of two more patients has been suppressed, thanks to a bone marrow transplant, the Boston Globe reported.
Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the ‘Berlin patient,’ underwent a bone marrow transplant in 2007 to treat leukemia, using a donor with a rare gene mutation that provides natural resistance to HIV. Doctors declared him "cured" soon after. These two new patients were also seeking treatment for cancer, according to the newspaper.
And although researchers in California recently found traces of HIV in his tissues. Brown said any remnants of the virus still in his body are dead and can't replicate.
Scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard were careful not to use the word ‘cured’ while presenting at the 2012 International AIDS Conference; but experts are hopeful this provides insight that will lead to a possible cure one day.
“These researchers have done some elegant work, and found results that I think are going to be very provocative,” said Dr. Steven Deeks, an HIV researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.
Approximately eight months after the transplants, doctors said the patients’ blood did not show any trace of HIV infection.
“They went from this easily measured amount in their blood to no measurable amount in their cells,” said Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “We frankly didn’t expect that.”
However, Dr. Jay Levy, an HIV researcher at UC San Francisco, said that for some other patients, there are antiretroviral therapies that work so well, the virus virtually disappears. Other experts wondered if the virus could be living in the patients’ lymph nodes or bowels, which is harder to detect.
Also, these new patients do not have the protective gene mutation in their donor cells that Brown had received, so the transplants were given with antiretroviral therapy.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.