Thursday, November 13, 2008

HIV treated by bone marrow transplant; study people with genetic resistance to HIV

The AP has a story by Patrick McGroarty giving the medical chronicle of an American living in Germany who has been cured of HIV infection with a bone marrow transplant. The patient also had (possibly unrelated) leukemia. But there had been two reported “cures” before 1996.

The link for the story is here. The story also appeared this morning on AOL.

But no one is suggesting that bone marrow transplants would ever become practical treatment for most HIV infection. But research associated with the transplant could lead to effective gene therapy, the report said.

Apparently some people inherit a gene that blocks the CCR5 receptor on their T4 cells that makes them resistant to HIV infection. Or, genetic markers may inhibit HIV replication even if one is "infected." It would be logical for genetic resistance to HIV to develop in nature eventually through natural selection, especially in Africa or in areas with high HIV prevelance.

I knew of a gay male whose partner had died in 1982 in Texas but who said he had normal blood counts as late mid 1990s. Natural resistance to infection and resistance to progression ("long term non-progressors") has been reported before. For example, NIH has a 2002 paper on the topic here.

The study of long term non-progressors could hold major clues to much more effective HIV management.

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