Bone Marrow Transplant Not the HIV Cure Many Hoped

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Two men with HIV who underwent bone marrow transplants for the treatment of Hodgkin's lymphoma and then appeared to be free of HIV are again showing signs of the virus.

Disappointment was felt all around following the revelation that the two men, whose identities have not been made public, were found to be carrying the virus again.

Virus temporarily undetectable

One man underwent a transplant in 2008 and the other had his in 2010.

Approximately eight months after receiving the transplant, the HIV virus was undetectable in both men. Nonetheless, their doctors kept them on antiretroviral therapy until earlier this year, when both men came off the daily medication.

Unfortunately, one patient showed signs of the virus 12 weeks later and the other showed signs 32 weeks later. Fortunately both men are said to be doing well.

A case of genetic resistance

Thus far only one individual appears to have been cured of the virus: American Timothy Brown, who was HIV-positive and then diagnosed with leukemia. He underwent a bone marrow transplant and has shown no signs of the virus in the six years since.

The difference between the men appears to be the donor cells. In Timothy Brown, the donor cells had a genetic resistance to HIV because they lacked the CCR5 receptor, and it appears to have conferred this status to Brown. The donors for the other two men carried the receptor, known as a gateway for the virus to get inside the cells.

Despite the disappointment, scientists remain upbeat, claiming to have learned a substantial amount of information about the virus from these patients.

Source: AP

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