December 1 is World AIDS Day

World AIDS Day is acknowledged annually on December 1st worldwide, aiming to increase people’s alertness to the disease and to honor the memory of those who have died from the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), whose number makes nearly 30 million people. World AIDS Day is supported by the World Health Organization.

The human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS affects T-lymphocytes, the immunocompetent cells responsible, first and foremost, for antiviral and antitumor protection. Therefore, AIDS patients die from infectious diseases or malignancies. Today, AIDS mortality has been significantly reduced thanks to the use of antiretroviral drugs, but medicine does not yet have a method of eradication of human immunodeficiency virus from the body.

It is known that among the European population there are people (approximately 10%) with a mutation of a gene encoding a C-C-chemokine receptor type 5, their body is not susceptible to HIV infection. Theoretically, if an AIDS patient is transplanted with hematopoietic stem cells derived from the bone marrow or cord blood of a person resistant to HIV, the serious illness can be overcome. However, it is technically not easy to implement, given the extremely low number of donors with this rare benefit and the risk to the patient.

However, as of October 2019, there have been 2 known cases in the world, the so-called Berlin and London patients, cured from HIV courtesy of cell therapy. 

The Berlin patient is Timothy Ray Brown, born in 1966, who developed acute myeloid leukemia on the background of HIV. In 2007, a haematopoietic bone marrow stem cell transplant from a donor, who was a rare receptor carrier, providing HIV resistance was performed for a patient in Berlin for leukemia treatment. Doctors thus managed to overcome both leukemia and HIV.

In March 2019, the world press was flooded with reports of another case of HIV recovery. In London, a Hodgkin’s lymphoma patient underwent the same procedure as a Berlin patient – a transplantation of hematopoietic bone marrow stem cells from a HIV-resistant donor. After transplantation, the patient has stopped the use of antiretroviral drugs (against HIV) and has no evidence of HIV infection.

These 2 cases are extremely important for medical science and the creation of new AIDS treatments based on stem cells with modified receptors.