A second case of someone probably cured of HIV has been reported

Mar 05, 2019

ESTABLISHED HIV infection is easy to control but impossible to cure. Or almost impossible. The exception seems to be Timothy Brown, a man often referred to as the Berlin patient. In 2006, after a decade of successfully suppressing his infection with antiretroviral drugs, Mr Brown developed an unrelated blood cancer, acute myeloid leukaemia. To treat this life-threatening condition he opted, the following year, for a blood-stem-cell transplant. And, at the same time, he volunteered as a guinea pig for an experimental anti-HIV treatment, which worked. Now, a team of doctors in London have reported a similar case.

Blood-stem-cell transplantation is an established, though extreme, treatment for various sorts of blood cancer. Stem cells are the precursors from which particular tissues grow. Blood-stem-cell transplantation involves using drugs (backed up, in Mr Brown’s case, by radiotherapy) to kill a patient’s natural blood-producing tissue, the bone marrow, and then transfusing in new stem cells from a donor.

So far, so normal. But Mr Brown, at the suggestion of his doctors, chose from among the 267 possible tissue-matched donors one who had inherited from both parents a mutation that, in healthy people, prevents HIV infection in the first place. (The mutation in question alters one of the proteins the...


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