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HIV Returns in Two Men Believed to Have Been Cured

Update Date: Dec 07, 2013 11:46 AM EST

New research today revealed that two men who were believed to have been cured of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) have tested positive for the virus once again. According to Boston researcher, Timothy Henrich from the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, the men had received bone marrow transplants in July and had appeared to be completely cleared of HIV. The return of HIV has been noted as an unfortunate setback.

The two male patients were being treated for blood cancer lymphoma. After their bone marrow transplants, the researchers found the men had undetectable levels of HIV in their blood samples. At the time of the transplants, one of the patients stopped taking his antiretroviral drugs for 15 weeks and the other stopped for seven weeks. According to the report, one of the patients tested positive for HIV in August and the other one tested positive in November. Both of them have started their antiretroviral medications once more.

"We felt it would be scientifically unfair to not let people know how things are going, especially for potential patients," Henrich, an infectious diseases associate physician said, according to the Boston Globe. "It's exciting science, even if it's not the outcome we would have liked."

Henrich announced the news at an international AIDS research conference in Florida. Due to the fact that some researchers are basing their HIV studies on bone marrow transplants, Henrich stated that he felt the need to inform others that transplants might not be the cure for HIV.

"This is certainly telling us a lot about persistence, what we need to do, and how low we need to drop the levels of HIV reservoirs in order to allow patients to achieve remission," Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga, professor of molecular medicine, pediatrics and medicine at UMass Medical School, said.

The only man believed to be cured of HIV is Timothy Ray Brown. Brown underwent a bone marrow transplant in 2007. He also had chemotherapy and radiation for his leukemia. Brown, who is dubbed "the Berlin patient," received the bone marrow from a donor who had a rare genetic mutation, CCR5-dealt32 that researchers believe is resistant to HIV. The two patients from Boston did not get a bone marrow with this particular mutation.

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