Second person cured of HIV after experimental stem cell transplant

adam p
Adam Castillejo, known in the scientific literature as the London Patient. Credit: Andrew Testa/The New York Times

A London man living with HIV who received an experimental stem cell transplant has appeared free of the virus for at least 30 months despite no longer taking medication. They say it’s strong evidence that he may be cured of HIV—the second such case ever documented.

Nearly four years ago, the man known as the London patient received a bone marrow transplant primarily meant to help treat his advanced blood cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma. But the transplant was sourced from a donor with a rare mutation that makes people nearly impervious to the most common type of HIV infection, HIV-1. Doctors hoped the transplant would not only help treat the man’s cancer but also reboot his immune system to resemble the donor’s, transferring that same resistance to HIV.

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[T]here are many practical reasons why we can’t just give everyone living with HIV these kinds of stem cell transplants (for one, they’re a very risky, last-resort procedure). We also don’t necessarily need a cure to end HIV as a public health threat, as I reported recently in an article about ending HIV. But researchers hope to build on the lessons learned from [London patient Adam] Castillejo and [Berlin patient Timothy Ray] Brown to someday cure HIV for good.

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