Prospective AIDS Cure Fails In 2 Boston Patients

12.6.2013

By Alex Panisch

The virus has returned in patients previously believed to be free of the disease

According to NPR, HIV has reappeared in the blood of two patients whom scientists believed were cured of the disease. These Boston patients were the recipients of bone-marrow transplants that scientists had hoped would be a cure. An American man by the name of Timothy Brown—aka the Berlin Patient—was cured of HIV when he received a bone-marrow transplant, but the marrow he received was from a donor with a rare genetic resistance to the infection. The Boston patients’ marrow donors did not have this advantage and it seems that anti-HIV medications and a garden-variety bone-marrow transplant are not enough to eliminate the virus.

Scientists hoped that an immune reaction called graft-versus-host disease or GVH would rid the Boston patients of the virus, but this was not the case. GVH, in which the cells of transplanted tissue attack the recipient's native body cells, might possibly get rid of any cells where HIV would lurk, but this did not occur; the immune cells of the transplanted marrow did not rid the patients of HIV. After being off anti-HIV meds for some months, the virus reappeared in the first patient back in August and in the second in November. This especially worrying as the CDC recently reported a rise in unprotected sex in men who have sex with men.

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