A second patient in history has been cured of HIV after undergoing stem cell transplant treatment after finding no trace of the infection, 30 months after he stopped traditional treatment.
The London patient was a cancer sufferer from Venezuela who trended on social media last year when researchers at the University of Cambridge reported they had found no trace of the AIDS-causing virus in his blood for 18 months.
Ravindra Gupta, lead author of the study published in The Lancet HIV said that the new test results demonstrated the patient was cured. “We’ve tested a sizeable set of sites that HIV likes to hide in and they’re all negative for an active virus, ” Gupta disclosed to one of the French media.
The patient revealed his identity as Adam Castillejo, 40, was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and had been on medication since 2012. In the same year, he was diagnosed with advanced Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, deadly cancer virus but in 2016 he underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat blood cancer.
More than two years after stopping antiretroviral treatment showed no active infection when Castillejo was tested. The specialist explained that the tests uncovered HIV “fossils” fragments of the virus that were now incapable of reproducing.
“It’s hard to imagine that all trace of a virus was eliminated from the body, ” Gupta stated.
According to Gupta, the patient’s treatment was the “last resort” as his blood cancer would kill him without intervention. However, researchers cautioned that the breakthrough didn’t constitute a cure for HIV.
The Cambridge doctor said that researchers are currently weighing up whether or not patients suffering from drug-resistant forms of HIV might be eligible for stem cell transplants in future but he stressed that it requires careful ethical consideration.
Commenting on The Lancet study, Sharon Lewin, an infectious disease expert at the University of Melbourne, said the findings could provide comfort to patients but she advised caution.
“Given the large number of cells sampled here and the absence of an intact virus, is the London patient cured?” she said.