Yesterday, researchers at an HIV conference in Seattle announced that a bone marrow transplant appears to have cured someone with HIV. The cured patient has chosen to remain anonymous, and the scientists call him the “London patient.”
This is the second successful case of bone marrow transplant sending HIV into long-term remission. The first case took place more than a decade ago and was un-replicated until the London Patient. This does not mean we have a meaningful cure for HIV yet, however. Bone marrow transplants are risky and have many serious side effects. Both people who have been cured of HIV with bone marrow transplants were actually given the transplants to cure their cancer, not their HIV. Although bone marrow transplants may not work as an everyday cure to HIV, knowing how the bone marrow transplants work to cause long-term remission could help scientists to work towards less-invasive cures that achieve the same results as the bone marrow transplants.
“This will inspire people that cure is not a dream,” Dr. Annemarie Wensing, a virologist at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, told the New York Times. “It’s reachable.”
“These are dreams, right? Things on the drawing table,” Dr. McCune, a senior adviser on global health to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, told the New York Times, “These dreams are motivated by cases like this — it helps us to imagine what might be done in the future.”
For now, the anonymous London Patient is doing well and giving thousands hope that we can reach a cure for HIV. He anonymously told the New York Times, that he feels a “sense of responsibility to help the doctors understand how it happened so they can develop the science. I never thought that there would be a cure during my lifetime.”