Added by Elivia DeVries on December 16, 2010
It appears that an American man living in Berlin has been cured of Aids following a very rare blood transplant, doctors say.
The discovery, reported in the journal Blood, came after the man had a blood stem cell transplant in 2007 to treat leukemia. It turned out that the donor carried a gene mutation that offers a natural resistance to the HIV virus, and the man, three years after the procedure, now shows no signs of leukemia nor HIV infection.
Dr Michael Saag of the University of Alabama at Birmingham said: “It’s an interesting proof-of-concept that with pretty extraordinary measures a patient could be cured of HIV.” However, he added that the procedure is much too risky to become standard therapy for HIV patients.
Saag, who is past chairman of the HIV Medicine Association, explained that bone marrow transplants, or more commonly, blood cell stem cell transplants, are used in treating cancer. It works by destroying native immune systems using drugs and radiation, and then replacing them with healthy donor cells.
However, the mortality from the procedure itself or from complications resulting from it, can be as high as 5 per cent or more, according to Saag. He said: “We can’t really apply this particular approach to healthy individuals because the risk is just too high, especially when drugs can keep HIV in check in most cases.”