There are many terrible diseases and viruses in this world that, no matter how hard modern medicine tries, we are not able to defeat. With more than 70 million people infected, and over 35 million deaths, HIV/AIDS is considered to be one of the most dreadful viruses in human history. But what if after all this time there is a chance we might be able to help people? What if modern medicine is capable of defeating one of the biggest obstacles it has ever encountered? A new and positive story has been spread all over social media for the past few days, and it might prove that there is a chance to cure these dreadful viruses.
(h/t NY Times)
Recently the world has been struck by some outstanding news in the medical field, a man known as “The London Patient” has been cured of HIV
Image credits: Pexels (not the actual photo)
It is only the second time in history that a patient has been cured of this disease
Image credits: NIBSC
Back in 2007, a man named Timothy Ray Brown, who is also known as “The Berlin patient”, was also cured of HIV. 11 years later, Timothy is still HIV-free and now has his own Timothy Ray Brown Foundation dedicated to fighting HIV and AIDS. Until this day, Timothy was the only known person to be cured of this disease, now, various sources have announced with joy that a new man, known as “The London patient”, has also got his second chance at life. So what happened? How did these to men manage to fight a disease that takes so many lives and to this day is listed amongst such terrible illnesses like cancer?
The Berlin patient who was cured of HIV back in 2007
Image credits: TimothyRayBrown
The London Patient, who decided to remain anonymous, was diagnosed with HIV back in 2003, and in 2012 he also got sick with a blood cancer called Hodgkin’s lymphoma. While he was very sick with cancer, the doctors decided to seek a transplant match for him, that’s when they found a donor who had a genetic mutation known as CCR5 delta 32, which confers resistance to HIV.
Even though the transplant went smoothly, the doctors noticed some side effects on London Patient’s treatment. The man started suffering from “graft-versus-host” disease in which the donor’s immune cells attack the recipient’s immune cells. But after the side effects went away, doctors were not able to detect any traces of The London Patient’s previous HIV infection.
Dr. Ravindra Gupta, a professor and HIV biologist who co-lead the team of doctors treating the London Patient
Image credits: AHRI
Ravindra Gupta, an HIV biologist and one of the doctors who treated the patient, described the man as functionally cured” and “in remission”, but also mention that it is too early to say he is completely cured. What sparked many questions was the fact that both of the patients had transplants with CCR5 mutation and both of them went through the “graft-versus-host” side effect, making doctors believe that the CCR5 mutation is not the only important factor in treating HIV.
Image credits: TimothyRayBrown
Even though this is a major step in fighting HIV and AIDS, there are some factors that are making this journey more difficult than you might think. Even though CCR5 mutation may be the main factor in treating HIV, there is only a small proportion of people that carry this mutation, most of them are of northern European descent. The graft-versus-host complication might also play a major role in treating the patients since both the Berlin and London patients had this complication. Finally, according to the doctors, this type of treatment is expensive, risky and complex. To make this treatment available to the public there is still a long way to go.
Bored Panda has contacted medical student R. Kancaite, who explained the major obstacles in treating HIV at the current stage of modern medicine. According to her, there are three major goals that need to be achieved in order to minimize the effect on HIV on the patient’s body, those goals are: minimizing the HIV viral loads (since the virus replicates itself to spread further), stopping the possibility of the virus spreading and restoring the patient’s immune system. In order to defeat the virus, the patient is prescribed antiretroviral drugs. The first 6 months of treating the patient are critical; because of the treatment the organism’s fight against new infections might grow and it may affect their overall condition. The most common side effects of antiretroviral drugs are bone marrow suppression that can lead to anemia as well as kidney stones, pancreas and liver inflammation, and diabetes. According to R. Kancaite, HIV is now considered to be an untreatable yet controlled virus and, looking at the overall medical knowledge of current modern medicine, there is a chance to find a cure in the future.