Newsflash: Two More Potentially Cured of HIV Infections (Updated Dec. 11, 2013)
Two HIV-infected men may have been cured of the virus by stem-cell transplants conducted to replace their bone marrow. Both men continued taking antiretroviral medications following their stem-cell procedures, but have since discontinued the drugs. After 15 and seven weeks, respectively, off the medication, neither patient has a trace of HIV DNA or RNA in his blood. It is still too early to know for certain if these men have been cured, but if so, they would be the third and fourth patients ever to be cured of HIV.
The first patient functionally cured of the virus had received a bone-marrow transplant from a donor with a gene mutation shown to limit susceptibility to HIV infection. The second patient to be cured of the disease was a baby born to an HIV-positive mother. The baby received treatment for 18 months; at 2.5 years of age, the child was still healthy.
The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that leads to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), has spread across the globe. More than 30 million people worldwide have died from AIDS-related diseases, and a similar number of people are living with HIV/AIDS. Nearly 6,000 new people are infected with HIV every day. BioEd Online offers a supplementary curriculum unit on the HIV/AIDS pandemic. The unit consists of essays and activities designed to help students understand the science of HIV/AIDS and its impact around the world.
Update (December 10, 2013): HIV infection has returned in both men, ending previous hopes that they had been permanently cured. The patients have restarted a regimen of antiretroviral medications to help manage their infections. Although the outcomes are disappointing, these cases provide important clues about HIV and its ability to persist in the body. This information will be highly valuable as research continues to find a permanent cure.