hiv cure

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Milestone in HIV research: Second patient in history believed to be cured

A major milestone in finding a cure for HIV.

hiv cure

Photo by Martin Lopez from Pexels

A milestone in Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), scientists and virologists alike, are starting to believe that curing this deadly virus is no longer a dream — but a reality.

This, as reported by the New York Times, is what was discovered when a London patient was examined for traces of the virus after an operation.

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Why do scientists believe that HIV is incurable?

HIV is one of the most deadliest viruses in the world. On its own and under resistant medication, humans can live a long life with the virus. However, its potency lies in its ability to transform into Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

For the longest time, scientific researchers have hit a brick wall in finding a cure for the virus. According to John Coffin, a professor in Molecular Biology from the American Cancer Society, this is largely due to the virus’ unique ability to mutate.

“HIV is a retrovirus, which means that it integrates its genetic information into a host cell’s own DNA. The viral DNA is then used by the host cell as if it were its own genes, and in turn directs the cell to make viral ribonucleic acid (RNA), and more virus,” Coffin stated.

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The case of Timothy Ray Brown

It was in 2007 that we heard of the first patient to ever be cured of the virus. Timothy Ray Brown became the prototype of HIV medical research.

Brown, now aged 52, was infected with the virus at the same time he was battling with cancer and leukemia.

The standard chemotherapy treatment failed to remove the cancer from Brown so, as a last-ditch effort, doctors proceeded with a bone-marrow transplant.

To achieve the transplant, a donor with a mutation in a protein called C-C chemokine receptor type 5 (CCR5) was needed.

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This would be crucial, according to researchers, since after the transplant, and an intense post-op treatment process that almost saw Brown lose his life, he was cured of the virus and the cancer.

How the London patient was cured

Duplicating this procedure on HIV+ patients with cancer, for 12 years, produced negative results. Not until the world heard of how the London patient, who was — to a lesser degree than Brown — battling with cancer and the virus.

He too had to endure a bone-marrow transplant with a CCR5 protein from a matching donor. The procedure successfully removed the cancerous cells without the near-death experience Brown experienced.

Also, the newly-transplanted cells were resistant to the virus. For two years, the London patient has lived a generally healthy life without the need to take anti-retroviral drugs.

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Scientists have revealed that the London patient is one of 38 who have gone through this procedure. More results are expected and their progress will be reported on at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle, Washington D.C.