German doctors declare “cure” in HIV patient

When this case was first reported in 2008, several patients asked me if these German doctors were on the brink of a cure. Now that the full journal article has been published, stating that a German medical team is claiming that a stem cell transplant has cured a man of HIV, the media has picked up on this story. Unfortunately, most HIV experts agree that the method in which these German doctors cured one man of HIV is not practical for widespread use because it depends on harvesting donor stem cells that have a mutation which eliminates the CCR5 receptor, that is one of the two receptors used by HIV to enter the human cell. These donor cells are rare. About 1 in 100 people in Central Europe have this mutation.
Of course we would all like to believe that a cure for HIV is possible, particularly since the vaccine trials have been disappointing.
I think beyond the scope of presenting this one isolated cure, doctors and the media have a responsibility to present the facts and not promote unrealistic expectations. We need to be sensitive to those living with HIV. Besides, stem cell transplant is not without its own problems. The mortality rate is approximately 30% when it is used in cancer patients.
But I am very excited by this case. Having treated HIV for over ten years, part of the difficulty lies in the virus’ ability to remain dormant in reservoirs. After the stem cell transplant was performed in this patient, I fully expected the virus would reactivate in these reservoirs. That has not happened. As for the future, although this is one isolated case, it has ignited interest in stem cell research to find a cure for HIV. In July, researchers led by John Rossi, PhD, of City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, Calif., showed they could modify stem cells to resist the virus.
I believe this case has shown us that this elusive virus can be cured. Just not right now.

One Comment

  1. Posted December 17, 2010 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been trying to beat the virus of course using traditional medication, but also with meditation and visualization as well as other forms of non traditional healing.

    This is very hopeful. I don’t want to get my hopes up but this sounds very promising.

    Thanks for posting and please keep us updated. Thank you Dr. Phillip

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