Monthly Injections Could Replace the Daily Pill Regime of HIV Patients

Henrietta Brewer
March 10, 2019

The man received bone marrow from a donor with a rare mutation, like "Berlin" and "London" to patients. While this treatment is not practical to treat everyone reports such as these may lead to a cure.

It came hours after researchers reported a "London patient" was the second ever man to see the disease "cured" by a bone marrow transplant - which effectively replaces and reboots the cells of the immune system where HIV persists. But the cost of these treatments, side effects, and rise of viral resistance to the therapy, mean that a cure capable of ridding patients of the infection still remains a major medical priority. They're also given drugs to suppress their immune system, so it does not attack the new cells.

The first such case of an HIV patient being cleared of the virus after a bone marrow transplant happened a decade ago to Timothy Brown, known as the "Berlin patient", who is still free of the virus.

Monthly Injections Could Replace the Daily Pill Regime of HIV Patients

The surgical replacement of bone marrow with the stem cells of patients who have the CCR5 genetic mutation must be followed by hospitalization where patients can be monitored for and treated against tissue rejection.

Also, while the London patient's cancer treatment was less intense, with just chemotherapy and the stem cell transplant, it was still toxic and is not a course of treatment that otherwise healthy people living with HIV infection should embark upon.

Brown, who had been living in Berlin, has since moved to the United States and, according to HIV experts, is still HIV-free. Meanwhile, the highest rates of new infections are found in Africa. Dr. Ravindra Gupta, a virologist at University College London and who presented the findings this week, also said: "Everybody believed after the Berlin patient that you needed to almost die basically to cure HIV, but now maybe you don't". Cells without a working CCR5 receptor are essentially locked up to the virus. The inability to find HIV in their blood, coupled with the missing CCR5 receptor, constitutes the HIV viral remission of the London patient announced earlier this week.

"The reason we know that this appears to be effective is that these people are no longer taking their anti-retroviral agents - which stops the virus from replicating - but nevertheless using very sensitive approaches, the virus can not be detected in their body at present". In fact, amFAR in part funded the London patient's research intervention.

He added: "Although the finding is exciting, it is not offering up a new treatment for the millions of people around the world living with HIV". To end the global HIV epidemic, it is extremely important that there be 100 percent universal access to these important treatments - not just to those who can afford their expensive retail prices.

ViiV, an offshoot of GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, is also looking into whether the injection can prevent HIV transmission. When HIV-infected individuals are compliant with the prescribed use of the AIDS cocktail, their viral load is undetectable and they become untransmittable, meaning they can not sexually transmit the HIV virus to others.

He did not experience HIV rebound, during the 18 months he did not take anti-viral medication.

Other reports by iNewsToday