Taking a major leap in AIDS research, scientists have claimed that they have found a cure for the HIV virus by using a long established cancer treatment to help destroy the killer disease—bone marrow transplants.
Doctors have successfully treated one patient using the method and are confident the process will work for other sufferers.
In their opinion, using of bone marrow transplants to cure HIV could become common in just five years.
The procedure involves using bone marrow stem cells already used to help beat blood cancers like leukaemia and lymphoma.
The man who was cured of HIV is 43 years old and had carried the virus for many years. He was also suffering from leukaemia.
He was treated after doctors exchanged his bone marrow with that of a donor with a rare natural resistance to HIV.
And since three years of treatment, he has no detectable signs of the disease in his body.
“I can see the day when it might be possible to treat many HIV patients with a bone marrow transplant from people who have this natural resistance to the virus,” The Daily Express quoted Professor Eckhard Thiel of the Charite University Hospital in Berlin, who led the research, as saying.
He added: “We are convinced this treatment works. The patient we treated three years ago is perfectly healthy and we are sure the HIV virus has gone and will not come back. But we will want to carry out trials on other patients.
“Our patient is doing very well and is completely clear of the virus and living a normal life.”
At present treatment will be limited as only three per cent of the world’s population are immune from HIV.
But experts believe that they could take the bone marrow from a few donors and grow an inexhaustible supply of stem cells in the laboratory, thus treating many thousands of sufferers.
Details of the advance were revealed at the annual meeting of the European Group for Blood and Marrow Transplantation in Gothenburg, Sweden, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.