Second Person in the World Cured of HIV

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( — March 12, 2020) — HIV patient, Adam Castillejo, has not had the virus for more than 30 months after he stopped with the therapy, BBC reports.

He was not officially cured with HIV drugs, but 30 months after a stem cell transplant he was tested HIV negative although doctors believe the virus is still somewhere deeply rooted in his body.

Castillejo was taking a treatment for cancer he was also suffering from, according to the Lancet medical journal. He had a stem cell transplantation that cured his HIV condition.

The providers of these stem cells have a common gene that protects them from HIV. By getting their cells, Castillejo became protected as well. This makes him the second patient in the world to be cured of HIV following Timothy Ray Brown, better known as the Berlin patient, became the first person to be cured of HIV, three and a half years after receiving the same therapy.

Stem cell transplantation appears to prevent the virus from replicating in the body by replacing the patient’s immune cells with HIV-resistant donor cells. Tests showed that 99 percent of Castillejo’s immune cells have been replaced by donor cells.

But there are still viruses in his body, as well as in the body of the Berlin patient, Brown. It is impossible to say with absolute certainty that HIV will never return, doctors said.

HIV 1 – the most common form of HIV in the world – uses the CCR5 receptor to enter body cells. It then destroys the cell from within and moves to the next cell. However, there are very few people who are resistant to HIV by having mutated copies of the CCR5 receptor that the HIV virus is unable to recognize, thus cannot enter the cell.

Researchers say it is possible to target CCR5 receptors with gene therapy on those patients with HIV. This is the same receptor used by Chinese scientist He Jiankui who created the first genetically modified babies with an enhanced immune system and ended up in prison for conducting experiments on his own.

Lead researcher Prof Ravindra Kumar Gupta, from the University of Cambridge, told BBC News: “This represents a HIV cure with almost certainty. We have now had two and a half years with anti-retroviral-free remission.”

“Our findings show that the success of stem-cell transplantation as a cure for HIV, first reported nine years ago in the Berlin Patient, can be replicated,” Gupta said.