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Published On: Thu, Jul 4th, 2013

Two men clear of HIV post-bone marrow transplants

Two patients at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) are HIV free after undergoing bone marrow transplants for cancer treatment, according to findings presented at the International AIDS Society Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia yesterday.

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), co-cultivated with human lymphocytes. Image/CDC

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), co-cultivated with human lymphocytes.
Image/CDC

Dr. Timothy Henrich and Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes, announced that two patients who were previously HIV positive and received a bone marrow transplant to treat blood cancer now show no detectable signs of HIV after discontinuing anti-retroviral therapy.

The cases were of two men, who don’t want their names released–One patient stopped anti-retroviral therapy 15 weeks ago, the other stopped 7 weeks ago.

Henrich cautiously said, “I don’t want to use the ‘cure’ word.”

“While these results are exciting, they do not yet indicate that the men have been cured,” said Henrich.  “Long-term follow up of at least one year will be required to understand the full impact of a bone marrow transplant on HIV persistence.”

Last summer, Henrich and Kuritzkes announced that the virus was easily detected in blood lymphocytes of both men prior to their transplants and became undetectable by eight months post-transplant.  However, at the time, the men remained on anti-retroviral therapy.

Since coming off anti-retroviral therapy this spring, the men continue to have no detectable HIV DNA or RNA in their blood.  The men are frequently monitored and researchers have expanded on their prior findings by further examining large volumes of cells, plasma and tissue.

“We demonstrated at least a 1,000 to 10,000 fold reduction in the size of the HIV reservoir in the peripheral blood of these two patients, but the virus could still be present in other tissues such as the brain or gastrointestinal track,” said Henrich.  “If virus does return, it would suggest that these other sites are an important reservoir of infectious virus and new approaches to measuring the reservoir at relevant sites will be needed to guide the development of HIV curative strategies.”

Like Henrich, The Foundation for AIDS Research (amfAR), who supported Henrich’s research, is cautious about drawing long-term conclusions from these findings. They note, it is also unclear how long viral rebound might take in a patient whose viral reservoirs have been dramatically depleted, but not eradicated.

“These findings clearly provide important new information that might well alter the current thinking about HIV and gene therapy,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “While stem-cell transplantation is not a viable option for people with HIV on a broad scale because of its costs and complexity, these new cases could lead us to new approaches to treating, and ultimately even eradicating, HIV.”

“Dr. Henrich is charting new territory in HIV eradication research,” said amfAR Vice President and Director of Research Dr. Rowena Johnston. “Whatever the outcome, we will have learned more about what it will take to cure HIV. We believe amfAR’s continued investments in HIV cure-based research are beginning to show real results and will ultimately lead us to a cure in our lifetime.”

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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  4. Two men clear of HIV post-bone marrow transplants | Mock says:

    […] Two men clear of HIV post-bone marrow transplants Last summer, Henrich and Kuritzkes announced that the virus was easily detected in blood lymphocytes of both men prior to their transplants and became undetectable by eight months post-transplant. However, at the time, the men remained on anti … Read more on The Global Dispatch […]

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