German Researchers Report Possible HIV Cure

A study published last week in the journal Blood that documents the curing of an HIV-infected man has gained international attention.

A study published last week in the journal Blood that documents the curing of an HIV-infected man has gained international attention.

But scientists and researchers are tempering the expectations of the public by quickly pointing out that this isolated incident may only be a step in the right direction and not necessarily the blueprint for an HIV cure.

It all began in 2007, when the HIV-infected man, who also was suffering from leukemia, had chemotherapy and received a stem-cell transplant. In receiving the transplant, the man’s immune system was essentially wiped clean, allowing for the creation of new white blood cells. Thirteen months later, the man had a leukemia relapse and had to undergo a second round of chemotherapy treatment, followed by another stem-cell transplant from the same donor.

The authors of the report mention that the donor’s stem cells “contained a rare, inherited gene mutation the made them naturally resistant to infection with HIV.” Although researchers were initially predicting that the patient would see his HIV infection rebound over time, that has not been the case three and a half years later. Unfortunately, the positive outcome of this case represents a catch-22 in that the best candidates to have a positive outcome are healthy patients.

There are many risks involved with the transplantation, which can prove fatal, and the sheer cost of attempting this treatment, which is in the thousands of dollars. However, the positive outcome is that this case study could affirm the way in which researchers understand the biology of HIV.

The World Health Organization estimates that 33.4 million people worldwide have the virus that causes AIDS. If progress can continue to be made and breakthroughs like this can provide the basis for further treatments, that could have a tremendous impact on that population.

Around the Web

Evidence for the cure of HIV infection by CCR532/32 stem cell transplantation [Blood]

Researchers report possible HIV infection cure; others cite dangers [CNN]

Cure for HIV claimed, but not yet proven [MSNBC]