Friday May 24, 2019

Stem Cells May Have Cured Second Man of HIV

Despite various attempts by scientists using the same approach, Brown had remained the only person cured of HIV until the new London patient

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A protester wearing a mask with the face of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is flanked by two fellow activists wearing angry face emoji masks, during a protest against Facebook policies, in London, Britain (From archives) VOA

A decade after an American was “first” cured of HIV using stem cell transplant, a British man has experienced sustained remission from the disease for over an year, after receiving a similar transplant of virus-resistant cells raising prospects of a cure, said doctors, including one of Indian-origin.

The new “London patient” — who prefers to remain anonymous — was treated with stem cell transplants from donors with a rare genetic mutation known as CCR5-delta 32, which made him resistant to HIV, just like the first cured case of Timothy Ray Brown, better known as the “Berlin patient”.

The “London patient” has been in remission for 18 months since he stopped taking antiretroviral drugs, according to the study published in the journal Nature.

“By achieving remission in a second patient using a similar approach, we have shown that the Berlin Patient was not an anomaly and that it really was the treatment approached that eliminated HIV in these two people,” lead author Ravindra Gupta, Professor at University College London, was quoted as saying by CNN.

The method used may not be appropriate for all patients but offers hope for new treatment strategies, including gene therapies, Gupta added.

The London patient is under observation, as it is still too early to say that he has been cured of HIV, the report said.

Nearly one million people die annually from HIV-related causes. Treatment for HIV, known as antiretroviral therapy, involves medications that suppress the virus, which people with HIV need to take for their entire lives.

The London patient was first diagnosed with HIV infection in 2003 and began antiretroviral therapy in 2012. Later, he was also diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin’s lymphoma — cancer of the immune system.

Lingam is the symbol of Lord Shiva.
Lingam is the symbol of Lord Shiva.

After undergoing chemotherapy, he also underwent a stem cell transplant in 2016, and subsequently remained on antiretroviral drugs for 16 months.

Later, he went without drugs to test whether he was truly in HIV-1 remission.

The London patient has now been in remission for 18 months, and doctors have confirmed that his HIV viral load remains undetectable, the report said.

Similarly, the Berlin Patient had been living with HIV and routinely using antiretroviral drugs when he was diagnosed with a different disease called acute myeloid leukemia — cancer of the blood and bone marrow.

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After two bone marrow transplants, Brown was considered cured of his HIV-1 infection.

Traces of HIV were seen in Brown’s blood a few years after he stopped antiretroviral drugs. However, because the HIV remained undetectable, he is still considered clinically cured of his infection, according to his doctors.

Despite various attempts by scientists using the same approach, Brown had remained the only person cured of HIV until the new London patient, CNN reported. (IANS)

Next Story

The HIV Spread in Pakistan: Government And UN Investigating Causes

Some also blame unsafe injection practices by quack doctors for contributing to the spread of HIV. Government officials estimate about 600,000 unqualified doctors are unlawfully operating in Pakistan and 270,000 of them are practicing in Sindh. 

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HIV patients take part in an awareness session at Pakistan Society, a nongovernmental organization drop-in center, in Karachi, Nov. 30, 2013. Pixabay

Officials in Pakistan and the United Nations are investigating causes of a new outbreak of HIV infections in a southern district where nearly 400 people have been diagnosed in less than two weeks. Officials confirmed Saturday that nearly 80% of those infected are children, with nearly half of them under age 5.

Local media began reporting about the epidemic two weeks ago from Larkana, a district of Sindh province, which has already experienced three outbreaks in recent years. A local doctor who treated several patients with a single needle and syringe was blamed for spreading the virus, which causes AIDS.

The provincial government rushed teams of public health workers to the district, with an estimated population of 1.5 million, to quickly assess the situation and mobilize resources to curtail further spread of HIV. More than 9,000 people have since been subjected to screening in the affected district, and the process is continuing, Sikandar Memon, the provincial head of the AIDS Control Program, told reporters.

A UNAIDS spokeswoman told VOA that international partners had joined local teams to help quickly carry out an outbreak investigation and address the acute needs of the people infected with HIV, including immediately linking them to treatment, care and support services.

The spokeswoman, Fahmida Khan, said efforts were being made to ensure that unsafe injection and blood transfusion practices were being stopped. She also noted that there were unconfirmed reports of similar HIV outbreaks in surrounding districts.

FILE - Pakistani social activists carry placards during a rally to raise awareness on World AIDS Day in Lahore, Dec. 1, 2016.
Pakistani social activists carry placards during a rally to raise awareness on World AIDS Day in Lahore, Dec. 1, 2016. VOA

Focus of problem

Sindh, with a population of nearly 48 million, accounts for 43% of an estimated 150,000 people living with HIV in Pakistan.

U.N. officials say since 2010, there has been a 57% increase in new HIV/AIDS infections in Pakistan. They noted that among all identified HIV cases in Pakistan, 43,000 are females.

Last year, an estimated 20,000 people were newly identified with HIV in Pakistan and 6,200 people died of AIDS, according to local and U.N. officials.

Khan would not comment on the reasons for the high number of HIV infections among children and the potential causes of the latest outbreak in Larkana, saying “further investigations and epidemiological review is yet required and suggested.”

Provincial authorities also have launched a high-level investigation to ascertain the veracity of the allegations against the local doctor, who already has been taken into police custody.

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Pakistani and U.N. officials say the HIV epidemic in Pakistan remains largely concentrated among key populations, including people who inject drugs, the transgender community, sex workers and their clients, and men who have sex with men. Pixabay

Some also blame unsafe injection practices by quack doctors for contributing to the spread of HIV. Government officials estimate about 600,000 unqualified doctors are unlawfully operating in Pakistan and 270,000 of them are practicing in Sindh.

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Critics also blame lapses in Pakistan’s national health system, the low priority given to the problem, corruption, the recent abolition of the federal health ministry and the delegation of its functions to the provinces for the worsening health sector situation and the increase in HIV infections.

Pakistani and U.N. officials say the HIV epidemic in Pakistan remains largely concentrated among key populations, including people who inject drugs, the transgender community, sex workers and their clients, and men who have sex with men. (VOA)