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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – It’s being called a breakthrough for HIV. A treatment that is showing impressive results fighting the virus that causes AIDS has another success story and is being called a cure.
A London man appears to be free of the HIV virus after receiving a stem cell treatment, but American doctors are waving the caution signs.
For only the second time in history, researchers believe they’ve cured an HIV-infected patient of the potentially deadly virus.
“This is really exciting news,” Dr. Rowena Johnston said.
The latest person, known as the “London patient,” had leukemia and received a stem cell transplant to treat the cancer.
The donor’s cells had a protein known to resist HIV.
“He has now stopped taking antiretroviral therapy for 18 months,” Johnston said, “and our researchers are unable to find any HIV in his body.”
Experts say this is more evidence that a similar treatment, which cured another man 12 years ago, can be successfully repeated.
“The only people who are going to be cured this way are people who have both HIV and cancer,” Johnston said. “And whatever the kind of cancer is, they need a stem cell transplant.”
Timothy Ray Brown is the Berlin patient, the first person cured of the virus after having two stem cell transplants. He nearly died from complications but recovered and remains HIV free.
“I knew I was the only person cured of HIV at that point,” Brown said, “and I didn’t want to be the only person.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is in charge of government HIV research, cautions, “This approach is risky, not feasible and not scalable, and so while interesting, it really does not advance the field very much.”
But Fauci points out that it may have relevance for gene editing in the future.
Researchers say they also are monitoring a third patient who may be free of the virus as well.
That patient has not been on medications for the past four months.