Two HIV patients show no signs of virus after bone marrow transplants

The Boston Globe reports, “Two HIV-positive patients in Boston who underwent bone marrow transplants for cancer were later found to have undetectable blood levels of HIV, according to research presented at the 2012 International AIDS Conference.”

Though “scientists say it is too early to call the patients ‘cured’ of the virus,” the “results offer intriguing insights into how an eventual HIV cure might be developed.” Dr. Daniel Kuritzkes and Dr. Timothy Henrich of Brigham and Women’s Hopsital studied the patients, and “found that the patients’ blood showed no traces of HIV particles and viral DNA within eight to nine months of their transplants.”

On its website, NBC News further explains the cases.

According to Dr. Kuritzkes, “We found that immediately before the transplant and after the transplant, HIV DNA was in the cells. As the patients’ cells were replaced by the donor cells, the HIV DNA disappeared.”

Writes MSNBC, “The donor cells, it appears, killed off and replaced the infected cells. And the HIV drugs protected the donor cells while they did it.”

The NPR “Shots” blog reports on the “crucial difference” between the two Boston patients and the “so-called Berlin patient,” who “is famously the only person in the world who has been cured of HIV;” the Boston patients “have not yet stopped taking anti-HIV drugs.” The blog adds, though, that it “may happen in the coming months.”

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