'London Patient' Is Second Person Ever to Be Cured of HIV

Stem-cell research helped cure the "London Patient" of HIV, but the method likely can't scale to cure all HIV cases.
Brad Bergan

A man in London has become the second person ever to be cured of HIV, reports the journal Lancet HIV.


"London patient" in the UK is free of HIV

The man, Adam Castillejo, is 30-months free of HIV infection, after stopping anti-retroviral therapy.

However, he was not cured by the HIV drugs alone. A stem-cell treatment for a cancer he also had seems to have corrected the illness, according to the journal Lancet HIV.

The stem cell donors have an unusual gene that gives them — and by extension Castillejo — protection against HIV.

The first patient reported as cured of HIV was in 2011. Known as the "Berlin Patient," Timothy Brown showed no signs of the virus three and a half years following similar treatment.

Treatment not scalable, but HIV patients live on

According to the report, stem-cell transplants stop the virus' replication process inside the body by replacing the patient's immune cells with those of the donor — which resist HIV infection.

The new 40-year-old "London Patient" — Adam Castillejo — decided to make his identity public after a year of knowing he was clear of the virus, and still has had no active HIV infection in his blood, semen, or tissues, his doctors told the BBC.

Lead researcher of the Lancet study, Prof Ravindra Kumar Gupta of the University of Cambridge, said to BBC: "This represents HIV cure with almost certainty."

"We now have had two and a half years with anti-retroviral-free remission," he added. "Our findings show that the success of stem-cell transplantation as a cure for HIV, first reported nine years ago in the Berlin Patient, can be replicated."

However, it's not feasible to scale up this treatment for the millions of people globally living with HIV, said Gupta. This is because the aggressive therapy used in his case was tailor-made to treat a patient's cancer, and not HIV. But modern HIV drugs are still very effective, which means those still living with HIV may enjoy healthy, long, and prosperous lives.

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