Could Bone Marrow Transplants Cure AIDS?

An American man who received a bone marrow transplant appears to have been cured from AIDS. The man had the bone marrow transplant 20 months ago the man’s doctors said on Wednesday.

The medical procedure is usually for those fighting leukemia. The doctors and researchers admit that the man’s cure may be a fluke but it could be a way in which to fight the virus. Worldwide 33 million people are infected with the HIV virus.

The 42-year-old American living in Berlin has not been named. He had been living with the AIDS virus for over ten years. Dr. Gero Huetter who treated him said that he underwent a transplant of genetically selected bone marrow.

For the past 20 months doctors have waited for the virus to reappear in tests. That day has yet to come. The man has tested clean of the HIV/AIDS virus on his bone marrow, blood and other organ tissues.

There have been other attempts to use bone marrow to treat the AIDS/HIV virus. According to the research there have been two other cases that appeared to have eradicated the virus.

Huetter’s patient though was being treated for non-AIDS related leukemia. Huetter is not an HIV specialist, he is a hermatologist. He remembered research that he had read in 1996 about a gene mutation called Delta 32 that makes people resistant to HIV infection. The 61st person who were suitable donors for the man’s bone marrow transplant also had the mutation.

Prior to the transplant the patient had to undergone radical radiation and powerful drugs to kill all of his own bone marrow. The treatment is fatal to 20 and 30 percent of all who undergo it.

The patient was also taken off the drugs that are used to treat AIDS. The team of doctors feared that they may interfere with the new marrow’s chance of survival. It was hoped that by lowering his defenses the new mutated cells would reject the HIV virus on their own.

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allery and Infections Diseases in the U.S., says that the treatment is too dangerous and costly to use as a firstline cure. It could though be an inspiration for researchers to pursue gene therapy as a way to block or suppress the HIV virus.

The Associated Press
reports:

“It helps prove the concept that if somehow you can block the expression of CCR5, maybe by gene therapy, you might be able to inhibit the ability of the virus to replicate,” Fauci said.

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