Brigham and Women’s Hospital Makes Strides Toward Finding a Cure for HIV
NEC member Brigham and Women’s Hospital and their talented staff recently reported that two of their patients infected with HIV have no trace of the disease in their blood after undergoing bone marrow transplants years ago for cancer. The two patients participating in the study conducted by Dr. Timothy Henrich, an infectious disease specialist, have been off their antiretroviral medication for 15 weeks and 7 weeks respectively, and still remain disease free. Dr. Henrich’s research represents another significant step toward developing a cure for this deadly virus.
Researchers caution that it is still too soon to determine whether the patients are “cured” of HIV. The research team is testing the patients’ blood weekly to monitor whether they continue to show no detectable signs of the disease. Dr. Henrich also sampled tissue from one of the patient’s intestine, a place where the HIV virus is known to persist, and the test came back negative. These cases present an exciting parallel to the “Berlin Patient” who is believed to be the only individual cured of the virus after receiving a bone marrow transplant from a donor with a rare gene that scientists believe aids the body in resisting the disease.
“I don’t want to use the ‘cure’ word, if they remain virus-free in a year, or even two years, after [stopping] therapy, then we can make a statement that the chances of the virus returning are very low,” said Dr. Henrich. The New England Council congratulates Brigham and Women’s Hospital on this remarkable development, and wishes the patients the best of luck in their recovery.