Can HIV and AIDS be cured
AIDS patient cured without bone marrow donation?
AIDS can now be kept in check with medication - but the disease is still not curable. Or maybe yes? A report from the current virtual World AIDS Conference is making headlines: In Brazil, a patient is said to have had no antibodies against HIV for a year - even though he was not given any medication all the time. So far there have only been two cured patients worldwide, both of whom had received a high-risk bone marrow transplant. But when it comes to the third possible cure, the question marks predominate.
HIV - relapses can occur
It's still too early to celebrate. At the moment, the supposed breakthrough is mainly raising questions. First things first: Can one really suspect a cure just because the doctors couldn't find any antibodies against HIV in the 34-year-old patient for over a year? This is a promising development, but nothing more.
The so-called Mississippi baby was once considered a worldwide sensation: the HIV-infected girl received intensive treatment very early on, then the mother stopped the therapy - but the little one remained healthy and was considered cured. The relapse came two years later and the child has been on medication again.
HI viruses can survive in sleeper cells for years
HI viruses can survive unnoticed for a long time in "sleeper cells", for example in lymph nodes or in the bone marrow. These treacherous reservoirs cannot be detected with antibody tests. A real cure has so far only been proven in two very unusual cases: the so-called “Berlin patient” has been considered cured since 2007, followed this spring by the “London patient”. Both men were HIV positive and had blood cancer at the same time - that's the only reason they got a high-risk bone marrow transplant.
Is the combination of strong AIDS drugs enough to "win" over the disease?
The donors were people with a rare genetic defect that protects against HIV. The therapy is life-threatening and therefore not an approach for AIDS patients without blood cancer - after all, HIV can also be kept in check with medication. The case in Sao Paulo now raises new questions: Could the combination of certain strong AIDS drugs also eradicate the virus permanently?
Study is only of limited informative value
The patient now described at the World AIDS Conference had been on very strong antiviral drugs, including maraviroc and dolutegravir, for more than two years. Ricardo Diaz, the attending physician, now speaks of a possible cure one year after the patient was discontinued. The internationally recognized HIV expert Sharon Lewin gives the study only limited meaningfulness and advises caution. The "very provocative data" should now be examined more closely.
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