Various reports indicate that a man has been "officially" cured of HIV. The drawback is that the method of treatment nearly killed him in the process, however the outcome has provided a new sliver of hope that man can finally win a deadly war against HIV that has spanned for almost three decades.
In 2007, 44-year-old HIV patient Timothy Ray Brown of the United States originally sought out Germany's Charite Universitatsmedizin Berlin hospital in regards to his fight with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Originally set for stem cell treatment for the Leukemia, he instead went through a stem cell transplant thanks to Dr. Gero Heutter and his colleagues at the hospital. The doctors hoped that the transplant would help fight against both.
Apparently they were right.
According to the Miami Herald, the stem cells used on Brown were from a donor who carried the gene mutation that left his body "without the gene receptors involved in contracting HIV, making him naturally resistant to the virus." After he received the stem cells, Brown immediately stopped taking the drugs that kept the HIV in check after all these years.
Twenty months later in February 2009, the doctors reported that his HIV had not rebounded. Many experts were skeptical, saying that the virus was likely still hiding in his body. However a new report released this week said that Brown's cell counts still remained within the range of those without HIV-- 3.5 years after the stem cell replacement procedure.
"In conclusion, our results strongly suggest that a cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient," the doctors said in the report.
The report also states that Brown also shows no signs of Leukemia.
But there was more to the "cure" than just the stem cell transplant. Experts call the whole process "radical" and "taxing," and not meant for most HIV patients. The treatment initiated with a heavy dose of chemotherapy and full-body radiation to fight his Leukemia. This nearly destroyed his immune system, however it also helped prepare his body for the new, HIV-resistant stem cells. The rest is history.
The HIV/AIDS disease was first discovered in the United States back in 1981 and seemingly caused widespread panic due to an increasing number of deaths and general misinformation. HIV finally became manageable in the mid-1990s with the introduction of effective anti-retroviral drugs.
However despite recent events, some experts are cautioning that it could take many years of work before the treatment could lead to a general HIV therapy. "'Cured' is a strong word," said Dr. David Scadden, co-director of the Harvard University Stem Cell Institute. "But this is very encouraging. From all indications, there was no residual virus. It's as good an outcome as one could hope.''