Patient cured of HIV gives hope to sufferers

Currently, roughly 37 million people worldwide suffer from HIV infection. The ubiquity of HIV,  a virus that infiltrates and disrupts the body’s ability to fight infections, has consequently made it ever-apparent that the virus poses an intricate, relentless battle for doctors to overcome and eliminate permanently.

However, according to recent reports from British Doctors, emerging evidence points to the second person potentially ever cured of HIV, a man people are calling the “London patient.” HIV, of course, is the ruthless catalyst for the chronic condition AIDS, whereby over 35 million people have died as a result of the illness and symptoms alike.

While the British patient’s identity remains undisclosed, medical experts are feverishly honing in on the HIV-repellent genetic mutation passed along to him: via a bone marrow transplant by a donor nearly three years ago. Seemingly, for the “London patient,” the mutation has brought forth new, negative test results for the virus.

As the recent patient is still labeled as “functionally cured” and awaits the true length of his current status, it seems as though his crucial mistake of delaying anti-HIV drug therapy for nearly nine years will cost the disease’s current stagnation and free itself of containment. 

Through absence of a protein labeled CCR5, the donor’s immunity to the disease is certainly powerful in forming a blockade against the virus and its replication. However, because HIV withholds stronger chances to mutate and employ a different receptor, dubbed CXCR4, as a result of one’s decision to impede vital treatment, the fate of the “London patient” surrenders to dominating odds that the virus will flourish and infect cells once again. 

It’s important to note that the “London patient” has been off of antiretroviral medication for the last 18 months, there is still a clear case to be made that his chances for outlasting the reactivation of the virus will pale in comparison to the first person (still) regarded as cured of HIV: Timothy Ray Brown. 

Brown, who sought initial antiretroviral treatment with a much greater sense of urgency, remains successfully HIV-free over a decade after his own bone marrow transplant. He was the only person known to ever be cured of the virus in the world, until this current patient’s story broke.

Ultimately, it can’t be stressed enough that there is tremendous risk associated with such operations that patients endure. 

In both Brown’s case and that of the recent patient, while only 1 percent of caucasians--their prospective donors-- actually carry the gene mutation, the extreme bone marrow procedures came as a result of their lethal experiences with cancer. The cancer, occurring simultaneously with their HIV infection, triggered side effects of rejection at fluctuating levels.

As it was in Brown’s case, but not-so-much that of the “London patient,” those seeking initial treatment in a timely manner are, at least, increasing their odds of being in remission, or even “cured” long-term, though to a lesser extent.