The So Called HIV Cured "Berlin" Patient Still Has Detectable HIV in His Body

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At the "International Workshop on HIV & Hepatitis Virus Drug Resistance and Curative Strategies" held in Sitges, Spain, June 5-8, data have been presented showing that the Berlin patient still has low levels of HIV although he remains seronegative against HIV.

HIV Sterilizing Cure Questionned

The "HIV Cured" Berlin patient still has HIV detectable in his body

The last day of the "International Workshop on HIV & Hepatitis Virus Drug Resistance and Curative Strategies" was dedicated to HIV cure.

Sharon Lewin from Melbourne, Australia, gave a plenary lecture about the different possible strategies than can be tested to reach an HIV cure. There are actually two kinds of cure, either functional (HIV remains but is undetectable without antiretroviral therapy), or sterilizing (HIV no longer detectable and the patient becomes seronegative against HIV).

The only current case of a cure is the "Berlin patient" who received 2 bone marrow transplants for acute leukemia in 2006. The bone marrow donor was chosen to be deleted on the CCR5 gene, making his cells resistant to HIV infection.
Eighteen months after the transplants, he was reported as seronegative without any trace of HIV detectable in his body (N Engl J Med. 2009 Feb 12;360(7):692-8.). These data were confirmed in December 2011 and the word of cure used for the first time (Blood. 2011 Mar 10;117(10):2791-9. Epub 2010 Dec 8.).

New data presented at the Sitges workshop by Dr S. Yukl group from San Francisco challenged these results as they showed persistence of low levels of HIV viremia in this patient, and HIV DNA in his rectal cells.
These HIV strains were found to be different from those initially present in this patient back in 2006, and different from each other.

Although HIV could have evolved and persist over the last 5 years, these data also raise the possibility that the patient has been reinfected.

More studies are in progress to know if this seronegative HIV individual can infect other subjects if he has unsafe sex.

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Alain Lafeuillade
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