After a procedure to treat his cancer, a 42 year old HIV patient with leukemia, appears to have no signs of HIV in his blood, nor any symptoms, without the post procedural use of antiretroviral medication.
Doctors, in attempts to simultaneously treat the immune destructive condition, chose the compatible donor with a naturally occurring resistant mutation known as CCR5 delta 32 .
This gene mutation can only be found in 1-3% of the white population of European descent. This mutation challenges HIV’s ability to attack the immune (body defense) system. However, a German Oncologist who conducted the procedure agrees with researchers in an interview with CNN. He says stem cell transplants are not a viable independent treatment for HIV patients (see last section).
HIV usually latches on (literally) to the CCR5 receptors (located on the surface of T-Cells, which are one of the “soldiers” within the body defense “army”). By latching on, the virus is then better able to attack the immune system more effectively by mutating the T cell (and negatively impacting their efficiency).
The delta 32 mutation blocks HIV’s ability to latch on. Therefore, the body takes longer to be effected by the HIV infection. In some cases some patient never becomes infected at all. There are a few, less common strains of HIV, which use other receptors (other than T cells) to latch on to (ie white blood cells).
Many doctors are saying that this is not a cure, stem cell transplants are too risky, because doctors have to basically destroy a patients immune system to preform the procedure. These same doctors also believe that the patients infected cells may resurface later, and could be hiding.
(Interview to be posted week of 9 March)