A variant of HIV has been found in Cuba, according to recent reports; and the mutation is said to be far more aggressive and rapid spreading than any other documented forms of the life-claiming virus. (Photo : Kevork Djansezian / Staff)
Spanish doctors in Barcelona believe they've found the cure to HIV.
By using blood transplants from the umbilical cords of individuals with a genetic resistance to HIV, Spanish medical professionals believe they can best the AIDS-causing virus. The procedure has already been successful, "curing" a patient in just three months.
Five years ago, an infected 37-year-old man from Barcelona began receiving a transplant of blood from an umbilical cord, and he was cured. Unfortunately, the man died of cancer just three years later, after developing lymphoma. Nonetheless, the Spanish medical team involved remain committed to the technique, and they consider their work to be a breakthrough in the battle against HIV and related conditions, according to the daily Spanish new source El Mundo.
According to Spanish news site The Local, the CCR5 Delta 35 mutation affects a protein in white blood cells, and it provides an estimated 1 percent human population with heightened resistance to HIV infection. Following cancer treatment, the HIV virus also disappeared for Timothy Brown, an HIV patient who developed leukaemia before receiving experimental treatment in Berlin. He was the initial subject for the technique, and he was given bone marrow from a donor who carried resistance to mutation from HIV.
Spanish doctors attempted to treat the lymphoma of the "Barcelona patient" with chemotherapy and an auto-transplant of the cells, but they were unable to find him a suitable bone marrow.
"We suggested a transplant of blood from an umbilical cord but from someone who had the mutation because we knew from 'the Berlin patient' that as well as [ending] the cancer, we could also eradicate HIV," Rafael Duarte, the director of the Haematopoietic Transplant Programme at the Catalan Oncology Institute in Barcelona, explains to The Local.
Prior to such a procedure, a patient’s blood cells are destroyed with chemotherapy before they're replaced with new cells, incorporating the mutation, which means the HIV virus can no longer attaches itself to an individual. Then, for the Barcelona patient, the medical team used stem cells from another donor in order to accelerate the regeneration process.
Eleven days later, that patient had experienced recovery, and three months after the transplant, it was discovered that he no longer had the HIV virus in his body.
While the Barcelona patient unfortunately succumbed to death from cancer, the procedure led to the development of a new, ambitious project; one that's backed by Spain’s National Transplant Organization.
March 2015 will mark beginning of the world’s first clinical trials of umbilical cord blood transplants for HIV patients with blood cancers. Javier Martínez, a virologist from the research foundation Irsicaixa, stressed that the process is primarily designed to assist HIV patients suffering from cancer, but "this therapy does allow us to speculate about a cure for HIV."