A second HIV patient has been cured, raising the possibility that the first time wasn’t just a fluke.
It might not be making headlines the way the virus was in the 80s and 90s, but the HIV epidemic is definitely still going on and definitely still a problem for millions of people around the world. Nowadays, HIV can be treated with modern antiretroviral medications, and there’s even a vaccine being developed by Bill Gates, but a cure has always been the stuff of fantasies.
However, scientists might be close to a breakthrough after having replicated a cure for HIV for the first time.
The first patient to be cured of HIV, Timothy Ray Brown, happened way back in 2007. He had the unfortunate double-whammy of both being HIV positive as well as having bone cancer. A bone marrow transplant seemingly miraculously cured him of both his cancer and HIV (although the procedure very nearly killed him first), and since then, scientists have been trying and failing to replicate the cure with little success.
That is, until doctors at Cardiff University finally cured another patient using the same procedure.
This patient wishes to remain anonymous and so he is being called the “London Patient.” Like the first man, he also suffered from both HIV and cancer, and just like the first man, he was cured of both with a bone marrow transplant (although the London Patient didn’t get nearly as close to death in the process).
The London Patient’s story and the University’s findings have been published in the journal Nature on Tuesday.
Speaking to the New York Times, the London Patient says he considers the cure just shy of a miracle.
“I never thought that there would be a cure during my lifetime," he said.
Scientists have determined that a mutation of the CCR5 protein protects immune cells from the HIV virus. The Virus uses that protein to infect immune cells, but cannot latch on to the mutated protein.
While a bone marrow transplant isn’t the kind of cure that scientists would like, it at least provides a path for future treatments to follow that might one day lead to a less invasive cure.