KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Two HIV-positive patients in the United States who underwent bone marrow transplants for cancer have stopped anti-retroviral therapy and still show no detectable sign of the HIV virus, researchers said Wednesday.
The Harvard University researchers stressed it was too early to say the men have been cured, but said it was an encouraging sign that the virus hasn’t rebounded in their blood months after drug treatment ended.
The first person reported to be cured of HIV underwent a stem cell transplant in 2007 to treat his leukemia. He was reported by his German doctors to have been cured of HIV two years later.
The doctors used a donor who had a rare genetic mutation that provides resistance against HIV. So far, no one has observed similar results using ordinary donor cells such as those given to the two patients by the Harvard University researchers.
The researchers announced last year that blood samples taken from the men — who both had blood cancers — showed no traces of the HIV virus eight months after they received bone marrow transplants to replace cancerous blood cells with healthy donor cells. The men were still on anti-HIV drugs at the time.
Further testing of the men’s cells, plasma and tissue for at least a year will help give a clearer picture on the full impact of the transplant on HIV persistence.