Researchers in Berlin, Germany, believe they have cured one man's HIV infection.
The patient, Timothy Ray Brown, received a stem-cell transplant in 2007. It was part of a lengthy treatment for leukemia that involved HIV-resistant cells from a bone marrow donor.
A 44-year-old U.S. citizen living in Berlin, Brown had been HIV-positive since 1995 and in 2006 was diagnosed with leukemia, a blood-related cancer, according to an article from the German magazine, Stern. After the stem-cell transplant, Brown stopped taking all the traditional HIV treatments.
Brown is still HIV-negative more than three years after the transplant, and the results have astonished doctors. He is the first person to have ever been cured of HIV.
In the latest issue of Blood—the journal of the American Society of Hematology—researchers at the Charite-University Medicine Berlin in Germany spell out the science of how Brown (a.k.a. "the Berlin patient") has remained HIV-negative since the treatment.
"In conclusion, our results strongly suggest that a cure of HIV has been achieved in this patient," the authors of the article stated.
While no one is hailing Brown's case as a comprehensive cure for HIV or AIDS, it is being lauded as a major breakthrough in the search for a cure—and particularly, as an advancement in the use of stem cells to treat autoimmune diseases. Proponents of stem cell research are hailing Brown's case as clear evidence that more research into stem cells is needed.
The Blood article follows on the heels of a related medical innovation. Researchers recently published evidence that a common HIV treatment, Truvada, could help prevent healthy, yet high-risk, individuals from contracting the virus. Time magazine recently named this research as the number one medical breakthrough of 2010.
HIV is a virus that causes AIDS—an incurable disease where the body's immune system fails to the point where a simple infection or cold can become fatal. HIV is considered a pandemic across the world as there are an estimated 60 million people that were infected with HIV or AIDS as of 2009.
Learn more about HIV and AIDS at Healthline’s AIDS Learning Center.