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Blood tests don't show any signs of lingering HIV infection in the unidentified 35-year-old man, and he also doesn't seem to have detectable antibodies to the virus, according to researchers at the Federal University of Sao Paulo, Brazil, The New York Times reported.
"Although still an isolated case, this might represent the first long-term HIV remission" without a bone-marrow transplant, said the researchers, who presented the results at AIDS 2020, an annual conference.
The most interesting aspect of this case is the absence of antibodies to HIV, according to Dr. Steve Deeks, an HIV researcher at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who was not involved in the case.
"There will be a lot of buzz, a lot of controversy about this part -- everyone's going to be skeptical," he told the Times. "Am I skeptical? Of course. Am I intrigued? Absolutely."
Deeks said the only way to know if the patient is truly virus-free is for independent labs to confirm the Brazilian researchers' test results. Even then, it won't be clear whether being HIV-free is due to the antiviral treatment combination the man received.
The Brazilian team has offered to send samples for confirmatory tests to other labs.
In addition to standard cocktail therapy, he received three antiretroviral drugs for 48 weeks, including maraviroc and nicotinamide, which are believed to lure HIV out of its hiding spots in the body so that other drugs can kill it, the Times reported.
Nicotinamide may also boost the immune system, according to Dr. Ricardo Diaz, a member of the research team.
"These are exciting findings, but they're very preliminary," Dr. Monica Gandhi, an HIV expert at UCSF and one of the organizers of AIDS 2020, told the Times.
No drug "has worked so far in terms of long-term remission" of HIV, she noted. "I'm not even sure this has worked. It's one patient, so I think we can't say we can achieve remission this way."
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