For twelve years, Timothy Ray Brown, dubbed the “Berlin patient,” was the only person to be cured of HIV—until now. Photo: Science Mag.
Twelve years ago, the first-ever person was cured of HIV. Research suggested that a cure to HIV wouldn’t be possible, as HIV is a virus that always stays in the body and can cause havoc among the cells like no other disease. Two months ago, the second-ever person was cured from the disease. This has brought hope to many sufferers that the disease can go away and a cure is possible.
An article from History.com states that Auto-Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS, has been a prominent disease seen in people since the 1970s, when sporadic cases of a rare, deadly cancer were diagnosed. The disease is now understood to have originated in West Africa, but first struck the gay community in America. At the time, the disease seemed to have started from nowhere, but quickly spread to millions of people.
Many drugs were created to combat this disease, starting with AZT, an antiretroviral drug that prevents the virus from replicating, to the most commonly used medication, PreP, which reduces the contagiousness of HIV by 90%. Steps seemed to have been in the right direction, however, it was to treat the symptoms of the disease, not to terminate the virus completely.
According to a New York Times article last month, a new patient, called the “London patient,” became known. He had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in addition to AIDS, the HIV virus making him more susceptible to the cancer than others would have been. Doctors understood that they needed to terminate the cancer quickly or he would die. After many treatments failed, bone-marrow treatment seemed to be the only solution. After the transplant, the patient seemed to have miraculously recovered from the cancer. What’s more is that the patient also inadvertently was cured of the HIV that was housed in his body.
The bone marrow transplant that the “London patient” received was the second time that a patient was cured of this terrible disease. The bone-marrow that was transplanted had a mutation that made these cells HIV-resistant, and once they entered the sick patient’s blood, they replaced all of the white blood cells with stronger versions. This is incredible, as the mutated cells are immune to HIV, making the virus dormant in the human body.
The bone marrow transplant may seem like the next best treatment for individuals with AIDS, but it is incredibly dangerous and can even lead to death. These case-studies also seem to be rare cases of success, as many others who have had this have died. Only in the most extreme cases where another disease will kill faster than HIV is this risk taken. Only through continual trial and many more studies, it seems feasible that HIV could be eradicated and individuals could live their best lives.