Two men supposedly cured of HIV? (UPDATE: False)

Originally published July 3, 2013, we now have an update that the HIV has returned in two men thought cured.

HIV virus returns after cure hope rose – Health & wellness – The Boston Globe.

Boston researchers are reporting the return of the HIV virus in two patients who had become virus-free after undergoing bone marrow transplants, dashing hopes of a possible cure that had generated widespread excitement.

The rebound of the virus shows its persistence, and that it can hide in places in the body where it’s hard to find, said the lead scientist, Dr. Timothy Henrich of Brigham and Women’s Hospital. But he said the team has gleaned significant clues from the cases for designing next-generation treatments to battle the virus, which causes AIDS.

An intriguing story out today.

2 men with HIV show no sign of virus after stem cell transplants

Two HIV-positive patients in the United States who underwent bone marrow transplants for cancer have stopped anti-retroviral therapy and still show no detectable sign of HIV, researchers say.

The Harvard University researchers stressed it was too early to say the men have been cured, but said it was an encouraging sign that the virus hasn’t rebounded in their blood months after drug treatment ended.

The researchers, Timothy Henrich and Daniel Kuritzkes of the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, announced last year that blood samples taken from the men — who both had blood cancers — showed no traces of the HIV virus eight months after they received bone marrow transplants to replace cancerous blood cells with healthy donor cells. The men were still on anti-HIV drugs at the time.

The men have both since stopped anti-retroviral therapy — one 15 weeks ago and the other seven weeks ago — and show no signs of the virus, Henrich told an international AIDS conference in Malaysia on Wednesday.

Further testing of the men’s cells, plasma and tissue for at least a year will help give a clearer picture on the full impact of the transplant on HIV persistence, he said.

Are we close to a cure for HIV and AIDS? It’s hard to tell but this is definitely progress and showing a lot of promise in the research. We must wait to hear expert opinion on such a story. So, cautious optimism is warranted. Please help us out by providing any references to knowledgable commentary.

Tip: Clara Rosas

  5 comments for “Two men supposedly cured of HIV? (UPDATE: False)

  1. Chris
    July 3, 2013 at 11:06 PM

    It is not really a cure, but a side effect of a treatment that carries its own risks and continued maintenance. I heard a This Week in Virology Podcast (TWiV 219: Fauci pharmacy dated February 10, 2013) with Anthony Fauci, who (from the transcript said:

    Vincent: You’re talking about giving people bone marrow transplants with CCR5-negative…?

    Anthony: Well, that’s totally impractical. That’s done in the few people who have lymphomas who need a stem cell transplant to begin with but you’re not going to trade a pill a day that can suppress virus in someone because they don’t want to be on medicine. You’re going to give them a stem cell transplant that’s allogeneic that would require immunosuppressive drugs for the rest of their lives. So what are you trading? The fire for the fire.

  2. Chris
    July 3, 2013 at 11:09 PM

    Okay, the entire comment disappeared, so no links this time. Short version: the transplant requires taking other drugs for the rest of their life.

    It is discussed (and I tried to link to the transcript) on the This Week in Virology Podcast: TWiV 219: Fauci pharmacy dated February 10, 2013.

  3. snoma
    July 3, 2013 at 11:30 PM

    Yeah, sorry, it somehow got caught in the spam filter. I’ll approve it.

  4. Chris
    July 3, 2013 at 11:51 PM

    Thanks. I figured the director the the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases would qualify as an expert opinion. 😉

    (I was about to post the link to his biography page at NIAID, but that might get caught in the spam filter)

  5. One Eyed Jack
    December 10, 2013 at 5:08 PM

    This story is also a good lesson it what it means to be HIV free.

    Test methods have limits of detection. There is no guarantee that a virus has left the body because of a couple tests. This is why standard testing for accidental needles sticks require multiple testing for a year – generally at 1,3, 6, and12 months. Early tests can be negative, but with time the virus can multiply to detectable levels.

    In this story, it may not be that the virus was “hiding”, but rather that it was present at such a low level as to be undetectable.

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