One of the two patients, treated at St Vincent’s Hospital in partnership with UNSW’s Kirby Institute, is the first known case of HIV being cleared without the use of bone marrow from a donor with a natural genetic resistance to the virus.
One patient underwent the bone marrow transplant for non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. In his case, the transplant donor carried one of two possible copies of a gene that affords protection against HIV.
The second had leukaemia and received bone marrow from a donor with no genetic resistance to HIV.
More than three years later, both patients are free of the virus, although they remain on antiretroviral drugs as a precaution.
The work was presented at the Towards an HIV Cure Symposium on Saturday July 19th, part of the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne.
Lead scientist Professor David Cooper, Director of UNSW’s Kirby Institute, said the Sydney patients would continue to be studied to try and discover any hiding residue of the virus in their bodies.
To date, the only man in the world believed to be cured of HIV is American Timothy Ray Brown, who received a bone marrow transplant from a donor with both copies of the protective gene CCR5-delta32 mutation in 2008. Brown remains clear of the virus today and no longer requires antiretroviral therapy.
The breakthrough is considered a huge leap forward in the fight to cure HIV/Aids.
More than 38 million people are living with HIV throughout the world today with millions of them from low and middle income countries which can’t afford access to these drugs at present.