Doctors at Brigham and Women’s Hospital say it is too soon to call it a “cure”, but they have seemingly eradicated two patients of HIV.
How did they do it? With bone marrow transplants. The two patients had the virus for roughly 30 years. They both developed a type of cancer which required a bone marrow transplant. After the transplant, HIV was not detectable in either patient. One patient has been seemingly HIV free for 2 years and the other for 4 years!
Bone marrow is the place where new blood cells are made and is believed to be a reservoir for HIV. Both of these patients have since stopped taking their anti-retroviral drugs.
“We have not demonstrated cure, we’re going to need longer follow-up.”, says Dr. Timothy Henrich. “What we can say is if the virus does stay away for a year or even two years after we stopped the treatment, that the chances of the virus rebounding are going to be extremely low.
Dr. Henrich states that the virus could still be hiding inside brain tissue or the gastrointestinal track.
Timothy Brown, aka the “Berlin patient”, is thought to be the first individual cured of AIDS. He received a bone marrow transplant from a rare donor who was resistant to HIV.
Dr. Michael Brade, the medical director of the Terrence Higgins Trust, stated that even though it is too early to say a “cure” has been found, “the case suggests that what happened to Timothy Brown, the Berlin Patient was perhaps not a one-off”.
And that’s what’s good,