More than a decade after the case of the “Berlin Patient”, the first person ever to be cured of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, a second man has reportedly been cured. This man wishes to remain nameless, but he is being referred to by many as the “London Patient”.
Similar to the Berlin Patient, Timothy Brown, the London Patient was simultaneously suffering from H.I.V. and cancer, and a bone marrow transfusion meant to treat the latter “cured” his H.I.V. The donors in both cases had a mutation in the CCR5 gene that made them immune to the virus.
Though the London Patient is now free of any symptoms associated with the disease, doctors are hesitant to call the man’s improved condition a cure and instead are using the term “remission”. The Berlin Patient has been in remission for 12 years, but it is undetermined whether or not his H.I.V. will ever return.
Regardless, this is a huge stepping stone for H.I.V. cure research. In addition to the London Patient, another person being identified as the Dusseldorf Patient received a bone marrow transplant that has left him in remission and off antiviral drugs for just over four months. Though marrow transplants aren’t likely to become the new form of treatment for H.I.V. patients due to the risk associated with them, scientists have used the London Patient and now the Dusseldorf Patient as proof that the Berlin Patient wasn’t just a medical miracle.
Researchers will continue studying the genetic mutation that makes people immune to H.I.V. in hopes that a long-term cure with less risky side effects will be found.
Recently, gene editing has been a hot button topic in the medical field. Many question whether or not it’s ethical to alter the genetic makeup of a human being. As we look to the future of medicine though, it seems as if gene editing may be the solution to aggressive diseases like H.I.V., that affects 1 in 7 people living in the United States alone.
The journey to a treatment for H.I.V. still appears to be a long one. However, with leaps and bounds like the case of the London Patient being made, the path seems clearer than ever. As patients continue to go into remission through treatment associated with the CCR5 genetic mutation, scientists everywhere are becoming increasingly hopeful that the cure to this horrible disease is out there somewhere.