Saturday July 20, 2019

‘Successful’ Treatment: Man Free Of The AIDS Virus After A Stem Cell Ttransplant

Stem cell transplants typically are harsh procedures which start with radiation or chemotherapy to damage the body's existing immune system and make room for a new one.

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Shown March 4, 2019, in Seattle, Timothy Brown is the first person to be cured of HIV infection, more than a decade ago. Researchers now say a second patient has lived 18 months after stopping HIV treatment without sign of the virus following a stem-cell transplant. VOA

A London man appears to be free of the AIDS virus after a stem cell transplant, the second success including the “Berlin patient,” doctors reported.

The therapy had an early success with Timothy Ray Brown, a U.S. man treated in Germany who is 12 years post-transplant and still free of HIV. Until now, Brown is the only person thought to have been cured of infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

 

The latest case “shows the cure of Timothy Brown was not a fluke and can be recreated,” said Dr. Keith Jerome of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle who had no role. He added that it could lead to a simpler approach that could be used more widely.

The case was published online Monday by the journal Nature and will be presented at an HIV conference in Seattle.

The patient has not been identified. He was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and started taking drugs to control the infection in 2012. It’s unclear why he waited that long. He developed Hodgkin lymphoma that year and agreed to a stem cell transplant to treat the cancer in 2016.

AIDS
Usually, HIV patients expect to stay on daily pills for life to suppress the virus. When drugs are stopped, the virus roars back, usually in two to three weeks. VOA

With the right kind of donor, his doctors figured, the London patient might get a bonus beyond treating his cancer: a possible HIV cure.

Doctors found a donor with a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV. About 1 percent of people descended from northern Europeans have inherited the mutation from both parents and are immune to most HIV. The donor had this double copy of the mutation.

That was “an improbable event,” said lead researcher Ravindra Gupta of University College London. “That’s why this has not been observed more frequently.”

The transplant changed the London patient’s immune system, giving him the donor’s mutation and HIV resistance.
The patient voluntarily stopped taking HIV drugs to see if the virus would come back.

Usually, HIV patients expect to stay on daily pills for life to suppress the virus. When drugs are stopped, the virus roars back, usually in two to three weeks.

Drugs
The patient has not been identified. He was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and started taking drugs to control the infection in 2012. VOA

That didn’t happen with the London patient. There is still no trace of the virus after 18 months off the drugs.

Brown said he would like to meet the London patient and would encourage him to go public because “it’s been very useful for science and for giving hope to HIV-positive people, to people living with HIV,” he told The Associated Press Monday.

Stem cell transplants typically are harsh procedures which start with radiation or chemotherapy to damage the body’s existing immune system and make room for a new one. There are complications too. Brown had to have a second stem cell transplant when his leukemia returned.

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Compared to Brown, the London patient had a less punishing form of chemotherapy to get ready for the transplant, didn’t have radiation and had only a mild reaction to the transplant.

Dr. Gero Hutter, the German doctor who treated Brown, called the new case “great news” and “one piece in the HIV cure puzzle.” (VOA)

Next Story

Chinese Scientists to Start Testing Long-lasting HIV Vaccine on Humans

There are nearly 1.25 million HIV-positive patients in China, where around 80,000 people contract the disease every year, according to the National Health Commission

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A nurse takes blood from a man for a free HIV test on a bus in Tehran, Dec. 16, 2015. VOA

A group of Chinese scientists will start trialing a long-lasting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) vaccine on 160 volunteers, the first time that such a vaccine has reached a second-phase human trial, the official newspaper China Daily reported on Friday.

The candidate vaccine, known as DNA-rTV, relies on replication of the virus’ DNA to stimulate “effective immunization” against the virus, said Shao Yiming, an HIV researcher at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to Shao, this vaccine — similar to the one used to prevent smallpox — is the first to undergo a second-phase human trial.

“With significant reduction of virulence, the vaccine will not cause infection in healthy receivers,” Shao was quoted as saying by Efe news.

Moreover, the vaccine being developed does not contain all segments of the virus but some parts of its genetic material, so that the chances of infection are significantly reduced, the report said.

The DNA of the virus will continue replicating after vaccination, thereby stimulating the immune system continuously to produce antibodies, a similar process to the one used by vaccines for other diseases.

HIV
Nearly 40 individual HPV types linked to HIV infection. Pixabay

Most of the HIV vaccines being developed in China and around the world are inactivated vaccines, which do not contain HIV DNA that can replicate, so their effect is not long-lasting.

The first phase of testing, started in 2007, proved the “safety” of the vaccine while the second phase will serve to determine the vaccination procedure to be followed in the future, Shao said.

“Hopefully, the second-phase trial will be completed in the latter half of 2021, and the third-phase clinical trial may start at the end of that year, which will involve thousands of volunteers in a trial to test the effectiveness of the vaccine to protect people against HIV,” he added.

Also Read: Cigarette Butts Significantly Reduce Plant Growth, Find Researchers

The research group has already recruited over 130 volunteers and initial work has begun in two Chinese hospitals, one in Beijing and another in Hangzhou in eastern China.

Chuang Chuang, head of Hangzhou Sunflower, a non-profit promoting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, told China Daily that over 100 volunteers had already registered with the organization after coming to know about the second phase.

There are nearly 1.25 million HIV-positive patients in China, where around 80,000 people contract the disease every year, according to the National Health Commission. (IANS)