The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the most feared disease and so far no satisfactory treatment has been found for this disease. The researchers are not talking about cure for this but instead they are focusing on treatment and prevention.
It came as a surprise to the medical fraternity when the announcement came from Berlin that an American 42 year old male patient living in Germany had been cured of HIV.
Dr. Gero Huetter, a hematologist, has made a claim that his patient has not shown the trace of the HIV virus for the last two years after he was given a bone marrow transplant for leukemia from which the patient was also suffering. He has chosen a donor who has natural resistance to HIV. His theory is if the bone marrow produces HIV resistant cells in the patient’s body, it can control his HIV infection. The results so far appear encouraging.
However, this cannot be considered as a cure for HIV. It is also too early to rejoice and claim that the patient has been cured. It is known that HIV has the ability to hide and remain undetected for several years. As soon as such patients are taken off antiviral, the virus is known to have come back. It may take many more years of observation before we can give a clean chit to the patient and say that he is free of HIV.
Bone marrow transplants are expensive and risky and 25 percent of the patients who undergo the procedure are not known to survive. We are far off from a solution to the HIV problem. But it does provide hope to the researchers that gene therapists one day may be able to re-engineer a patient’s cell and function like HIV resistant cell. It may take a couple of decades for the medical technology to arrive at a workable solution. The solution has to be far cheaper as most of the HIV patients are in developing countries where they cannot afford expensive treatments.
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