Second Man HIV-Free After Stem Cell Transplant

In only the second known case worldwide, a man is free of HIV after a stem cell transplant, doctors say.

The London, U.K. patient has not been identified. He was diagnosed with HIV in 2013 and diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma in 2012. He decided in 2016 to have a stem cell transplant to treat the cancer, the Associated Press reported.

The stem cell donor had a double copy (inherited from both parents) of a gene mutation that confers natural resistance to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. So, the transplant gave the patient the mutation and built-in HIV resistance, according to the case study that was published online Monday in the journal Nature. The study will also be presented at an HIV conference in Seattle.

The patient agreed to stop taking HIV drugs to see if the virus would return. After 18 months off the drugs, there was still has no trace of HIV, the AP reported.

Finding a stem cell donor with a double copy of the HIV-resistant gene mutation was "an improbable event," said lead researcher Ravindra Gupta of University College London. "That's why this has not been observed more frequently."

In the only other known case, Timothy Ray Brown of the U.S. became HIV-free after a stem cell transplant in Germany 12 years ago and is still free of the virus.

The new case "shows the cure of Timothy Brown was not a fluke and can be recreated," Dr. Keith Jerome, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, told the AP.

This could lead to a simpler approach that could be used more widely, added Jerome, who was not involved in either case.

Brown told the AP he would like to meet the London patient and would encourage him to go public because "it's been very useful for science and for giving hope to HIV-positive people, to people living with HIV."

Dr. Gero Hutter, the German doctor who treated Brown, said the London case was "great news" and "one piece in the HIV cure puzzle," the AP reported.

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