A Brazilian man could be the first person to ever be "cured" of HIV after undergoing intensive experimental drug therapy, according to a panel of scientists at the annual AIDS 2020 medical conference.
Brazilian man first person 'cured' of HIV with drugs alone
The man — who is 34 years old and was first diagnosed with HIV in 2012 — is the first person to continue long-term HIV remission after receiving a year-long course of intensive anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs. He received all treatment along with four different patients, of whom he is the only one who may be "cured."
"Although still an isolated case, this might represent the first long-term H.I.V. remission" without a more extensive bone-marrow transplant, said the scientists, according to The New York Times. The results were presented virtually amid the coronavirus crisis.
UPDATE July 7, 12:02 PM EDT: The year-long 'cure' treatment
The patient — the third-known person ever "cured of the disease" — was placed on standard ARV treatment two months following his initial diagnosis and was later enrolled in a clinical trial where he was given standard ARTs, in addition to the HIV drugs dolutegravir and maraviroc.
He was also given nicotinamide, a kind of vitamin B that fights the part of the HIV that infects cells, causing them to self-destruct and activate the immune system.
The patient was given intensive therapy for a year and then removed from the treatment in March 2019. Since then, he was tested every three weeks — and a year later he still shows no signs of detectable viral load or antibodies.
UPDATE July 7, 12:20 PM EDT: Absence of antibodies, lack of academic affirmation
An HIV and infectious diseases expert at the University of Melbourne who wasn't part of the research efforts named Professor Sharon Lewin said the lack of antibodies was very relevant.
"When someone is infected with a virus they make antibodies. And antibodies don't budge, even when you're on treatment and there's no detectable viral load. But this showed he had no antibodies which is supportive of him being cured," said Lewin to The Telegraph.
However, she also said it was important to keep in mind that this was only one patient — and that the findings emerged in a case report, not a full academic paper.
"It's interesting, but it's hard to know how significant it is when it's just a single case. I'd also like to know what happened to the other patients," she said to The Telegraph.
UPDATE July 7, 12:32 PM EDT: HIV treatment needs more tests, time
Lead scientist of the study Ricardo Diaz of the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil said he was "trying to wake up the virus" and boost the immune system's capability to fully eliminate the virus after it's forced out of proverbial hiding.
"We can't search the entire body, but by the best evidence, we do not have infected cells," said Diaz, according to The Telegraph. "I think it's very promising. This patient might be cured," however more time is needed to know with certainty, he added.
The Brazilian man's treatment for HIV was expensive — patients have to take medication daily and work around drug resistance. But, pending more time and research, it's not impossible that we're witnessing the beginning of the end for HIV.