Aids ‘miracle cure’

2010-12-16 00:00

IN what has been described as a stunning medical breakthrough, doctors believe an HIV-positive man who underwent a stem cell transplant in 2007 has been cured as a result of the procedure, the medical journal Blood recently reported.

FoxNews reported yesterday that Timothy Ray Brown, an HIV-positive American living in Germany, had leukemia and was undergoing chemotherapy when he received a transplant of stem cells from a donor carrying a rare, inherited gene mutation that seems to make carriers virtually immune to HIV infection.

According to the report, the transplant appeared to wipe out both diseases.

However, Aids experts expressed caution.

FoxNews said Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has been studying HIV and Aids for almost 30 years, described the “breakthrough” as interesting but absurdly impractical.

“It’s hard enough to get a good a compatible match for a transplant like this,” Fauci told FoxNews.com,

“But you also have to find compatible donor that has this genetic defect, and this defect is only found in one percent of the Caucasian population and zero percent of the black population. This is very rare.”

Fauci said while this patient is “functionally cured”, this is not something you can do with every HIV-infected individual.

“This is not prime time to me at all,” he said. “This is a very unusual situation that has little practical application for a simple reason. This donor not only had to be a good compatible match, but the donor had to have a genetic defect of cells that do not express the receptor that the HIV virus needs to enter the cell.”

Fauci also pointed to the fact that this transplant process is not only expensive, it is also incredibly painful and complicated, and requires the patient to start a whole new regimen of drugs.

Dr Thomas Quinn, director of Johns Hopkins Centre for Global Health, told FoxNews.com that he is very familiar with the “Berlin patient” case.

“This was a new report that looked much deeper into whether HIV could still be present or lurking in the body in some way, not cured, and since the transplant he remains viral-free and his cells appear to be resistant to infection,” he said.

Quinn said he agrees with the researchers on this case that it would be qualified as the first HIV cure, opening the door to alternative means of curing the virus.

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