Good News: HIV Patient Cured

HIV Patient Cured!

A London patient with HIV was confirmed “cured” this month, marking the second-ever full recovery since the global epidemic began in 1981.

HIV Virus animation

In both cases, patients were cured of HIV/AIDS after receiving bone marrow transplants designed to treat cancer. The first patient, Timothy Ray Brown, suffered from leukemia. The second, Adam Castillejo, suffered from Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The news that he could be cured of both HIV and cancer was “surreal” and “overwhelming,” says Castillejo. “I never thought that there would be a cure during my lifetime.”

Brown and Castillejo both received transplants from donors with a unique mutation that affects CCR5, the protein HIV uses to enter cells.

While bone marrow transplants are not a feasible treatment for HIV, introducing immune cells similarly modified to resist the virus could be.

“This will inspire people that cure is not a dream,” says Dr. Annemarie Wensing, a virologist who leads an international consortium studying stem cell transplants as a possible treatment for HIV.

“I think this does change the game a little bit,” adds Dr. Ravindra Gupta, a virologist who presented Mr. Castillejo’s story at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle this month.

The conference was presented virtually this year due to COVID-19.

The Details

Adam Castillejo has been off his anti-HIV drugs since September 2017. Tests suggest he is fully cured of both cancer and HIV.

Scientists are monitoring 38 other HIV patients who received bone marrow transplants, including some whose donors did not have the CCR5 mutation. One patient in Germany has been off his anti-HIV drugs for four months.

As noted by AIDS specialist Dr. Timothy J. Henrich, any treatment focused on CCR5 will only work for about half of HIV patients. The remaining half have a virus that uses CXCr4 to enter cells, not CCR5.

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