Two patients HIV-free after therapy

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Bone marrow transplant successful against AIDS

Two HIV patients from the United States have no detectable AIDS pathogens in their blood after a bone marrow transplant. But that doesn't mean that they are healed.

Bone marrow transplantation in cancer patients After two HIV patients have received a bone marrow transplant, they can no longer detect AIDS in the blood. At the International AIDS Conference in Kuala Lumpur, US medical officials from Boston reported that one of the men had stopped taking HIV medication in seven weeks and the other in 15 weeks. Timothy Henrich of Brigham and Women's Hospital said, "Although these results are exciting, they do not mean that the men are healed." To see what the therapy really did, you have to wait at least a year. Viruses could still be slumbering in the brain or digestive tract, among other things. The transplants for the two men who had lymphoma cancer were two or five years ago, but the HIV medication was only stopped a few weeks ago. A third patient who had also been treated died from the effects of his cancer.

Case in Berlin caused a worldwide sensation In 2008, a patient from Berlin caused a worldwide sensation. After a bone marrow transplant, the number of HI viruses had also dropped below the detection limit. The bone marrow donation was carried out as part of a blood cancer therapy. Even then, the doctors did not want to speak of a cure. The doctor at the time, Gero Hütter, who now works at Heidelberg University, explained that bone marrow transplants are not a general treatment option for AIDS. Transplants are associated with too high a risk because the recipient's immune system is weakened in a targeted manner. For this reason, the doctors in Boston and Berlin only used the treatment in the case of very seriously ill cancer patients.

Healed patient establishes HIV Foundation Hütter pointed out a difference from the case at the time: "Compared to the two patients from Boston, the Berlin patient has been examined much more intensively and a permanent cure of HIV can now be assumed to be safe." A team of researchers confirmed this in a study published by the online journal "PLOS Pathogens" in May. "The Berlin patient is doing very well, he has been living in the United States for a good three years and has now established his own HIV foundation," says Hütter. The new cases are mainly because similar cases have failed in the past from Boston interesting. What contributed to the success was not yet clear. "In the case of the Berlin patient, it was certainly the special donor selection, but this did not happen for these two patients from Boston."

Therapy for Infected Baby In March, the case of a newborn in the United States caused a sensation. Deborah Persaud of the Johns Hopkins Children's’s Center in Baltimore, Maryland, reported that a newborn who was infected with HIV in his mother’s home was treated with antiretroviral drugs. The doctors started a combination therapy of three medications 30 hours after the birth and already on the 29th day no pathogens could be detected with standard tests. The scientists assume that the rapid treatment did not allow the viruses to build up a "hidden reserve" and that the child was practically healed.

Five years to cure The first time people spoke of a cure for the HI virus was in 2007 when the American Timothy Ray Brown underwent a stem cell transplant because of leukemia. He used the cells of a donor with a rare gene mutation that increase resistance to the HI virus. German doctors declared Brown cured of the HI virus two years after the transplant. Even if there were successful treatments, the procedure was too complex to apply to all patients. Munich internist Hans Jäger, however, estimates that the immune deficiency disease will soon be curable. According to the expert, five years is “a realistic period in which we can heal.” (Ad)

Image: Andreas Dengs, /

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Video: Can we cure HIV with an injection? Dr. Hans-Peter Kiem. TEDxSeattle

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