But this one’s different from past cases & here’s why…
A sixth person appears to have been cured of HIV after receiving a stem cell transplant. However, the so-called “Geneva Patient” appears to be slightly different from other cases. He didn’t receive stem cells from someone with a known genetic mutation that confers HIV immunity.
A tiny number of people have a natural, genetic immunity to HIV.
If someone with HIV needs a stem cell transplant, and they receive the cells from someone with this immunity, they can be functionally cured of HIV. Their immune system is basically rebooted from scratch with the genetic modification included.
This has been observed five times previously. The reason why it’s not rolled out to help more people is simple. Stem cell transplants are risky procedures that require patients to have their entire immune system temporarily eradicated.
Those who undergo them may have to remain on drugs for the rest of their lives to prevent tissue rejection. It’s also hugely expensive. For this reason, it’s only usually people with cancers such as leukemia or sarcoma that undergo the procedure.
Researchers remain interested in the procedure in case it helps point toward a similar, more practical cure for HIV.
What makes this case different is the “Geneva Patient” did not receive a transplant from someone with the “CCR5” gene mutation. That’s the genetic blip that prevents HIV from entering cells.
The patient has now been off antiretroviral treatment for 20 months. He shows no signs of HIV rebounding within his body.