Health and Wellness

German doctors claim they have ‘cured’ HIV through blood stem cell transplant

Doctors in Germany claim they have cured a man who was infected with HIV.

Timothy Ray Brown, 44, an American patient living in Berlin, who was both HIV positive and stricken with Leukemia — a cancer of the immune system — underwent a bone marrow transplant, or, more commonly, a blood stem cell transplant, in 2007.

Now, three years later, Brown shows no signs of leukemia or HIV infection, and physicians have declared they believe they have cured both illnesses, according to a report in the journal Blood.

According to researchers at Charite-University Medicine in Berlin, Brown’s treatment included wiping out his own immune system with high-dose chemotherapy and radiation, and giving him a transplant of blood stem cells.

On the day of the transplant, Brown stopped taking his antiretroviral HIV medications. The initial findings, first published in the New England Journal of Medicine in February 2009, indicated Brown’s HIV had not rebounded in the first 20 months after the transplant.

And now, 3 1/2 years after the transplant, doctors claim that Brown’s CD4 cells to match that of a healthy person, and that none of his original CD4 cells remain. Moreover, the virus was not detected in the body, and Brown showed no signs of infection, the researchers said.

“In conclusion,” they wrote, “our results strongly suggest that cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient.”

When Brown’s case first surfaced two years ago, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the procedure was too expensive and too risky to be practical as a cure.

But researches hope this latest success might give more clues to using gene therapy or other methods to achieve the same result, or point the way towards developing a cure for HIV/AIDS infection through genetically engineered stem cells.

According to UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, an estimated 33 million people worldwide are currently living with HIV.

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