HIV Back for Two “Cured” Men

One of the brightest hopes for a cure to HIV has been dampened: Two men who had received a stem cell treatment thought to have cured them of the virus have seen it returning, the case dashing expectations that the stem cell treatment was a success.

While a stem cell transplant may not be a cure for the disease, it has been useful for experts who are considering the case. Hopeful researchers held their breath while both men received the experimental treatment in Boston and the disease seemed to disappear. The two men were also both afflicted with lymphoma, which is why they received the transplant. No sign of the disease remained after 8 months; many remained skeptical, and the men continued to be monitored to see what would happen. The first blow to the treatment came in August, when one of the two saw a reemergence of the disease. The other shoe then dropped just last November.

This cuts the number of cured HIV patients from four people down to just two. There was a man cured back in 2007 after receiving treatment for leukemia, followed by a baby cured in 2010, who was cured via strong antiretroviral treatments received just after birth. They are now the only two individuals to have the disease seemingly eradicated, with no resurgence after an extended period of time.

While many who receive treatment cease to have pathogens in their blood, the disease is well known for returning once therapy is stopped. Both of the men from Boston ceased treatments after the transplants; the first man had the disease return 12 weeks after stopping treatment, and the second man saw the condition return 32 weeks after discontinuing his.

As disappointing as the results are, this offers up more information on how HIV works. Research continues in order to find the reservoir that the disease hides in during treatment.