The London patient, a man known to be infected with HIV, has now become the second adult in the world to be freed from the AIDS-causing virus. Three years after a bone marrow transplant from an HIV-resistant donor, the London Patient’s test results continue to show no signs of the infection
A man being treated in Britain, previously known to be infected with HIV, has now become the second adult to be cleared of the infection. He received bone marrow stem cells from a rare virus-resistant donor about three years ago and according to recent test results, the patient remains free from the AIDS-causing virus. Owing to his case’s similarity with that of the first HIV-free adult, Timothy Brown or the “Berlin Patient”, the man is now being referred to as the “London patient”.
HIV biologist, Ravindra Gupta, who led the team of doctors, treating the London Patient affirmed that there were no measurable signs of the virus. He said, “There is no virus there that we can measure. We can’t detect anything.” Gupta added that even though the patient has been “functionally cured”, it is too soon to say that the patient is completely cured of the HIV infection.
Reportedly, the London patient got infected with HIV in 2003, he was later diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma (a type of blood cancer) in 2012. Given his rare condition, in 2016, doctors decided to perform a bone marrow transplant on him. They found a donor with a rare mutation called CCR5 delta 32, which ensures resistance to HIV. The transplant was the London patient’s “last chance of survival”.
According to biologist Ravindra Gupta, the transplant was the relatively easy part of the entire process as the complications that followed made the recovery rather tricky. He also added that the graft-versus-host disease suffered by the patient after the transplant may have been just as important as the CCR5 resistance. The disease, where the immune cells of the donor attack the immune cells of the patient, was common in both the London and Berlin case. The London patient’s case will be discussed at a medical conference, scheduled to be held in Seattle on Tuesday. The patient has requested complete anonymity and hence his name, age, and nationality will not be revealed.
Despite the remarkable leap forward in HIV research, curing all infected patients through bone marrow transplant remains questionable. The treatment is expensive, complicated and likely to yield different results in different cases. However, biologist Ravindra Gupta has confirmed that his team will now be looking into the findings of the successful case to further enhance treatment strategies for HIV.