20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014)


2 Australian Men "Cleared" of HIV After Bone Marrow Transplants

July 22, 2014

Two HIV patients are showing no signs of HIV after receiving bone marrow transplants to treat cancer, according to a case presented by David Cooper, director of the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales, while speaking at a press briefing at the 20th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2014) in Melbourne, Australia.

Although the two patients, both Australian men, are seemingly HIV-free, they are both still on antiretroviral therapy (ART) as a precaution. As we've seen in two Boston patients who had similar HIV remissions after bone marrow transplants, the virus rebounded months after treatment was discontinued.

According to a report in the journal Nature, after hearing about the Boston patients last year, Cooper and his team started looking through the archives of St. Vincent's hospital in Sydney to see whether similar transplants had occurred in any of their HIV-positive patients. They found these two patients.

The first patient had received a bone marrow transplant to treat non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2011, while the second patient received treatment for leukemia in 2012. Interestingly, the first patient's replacement stem cells came from a donor who carried one copy of a gene that's thought to protect against HIV. Whether this was the CCR5 receptor mutation (as was the case for Timothy Brown, the first man functionally cured of HIV) was not reported.

According to the Nature report:

Because of the risk of relapse, Cooper's team will not claim that their patients are cured. But, he says, the results show that "there is something about bone-marrow transplantation in people with HIV that has an anti-HIV reservoir effect, such that the reservoirs go down to very low levels. And if we can understand what that is and how that happens, it will really accelerate the field of cure search."

Stem-cell transplant in itself cannot be used as a routine HIV treatment, because of the high mortality (10%) associated with the procedure. An important next step will be to find more such cases and compare them, says Cooper, to try to identify where the virus might be hiding. "These patients are very precious examples to help us understand how we might manipulate the immune system to drive the reservoir down to these extraordinary low levels."

Certainly, this is promising news, especially in light of the recent disappointing relapses in the Boston patients and "Mississippi Child," but it remains to be seen whether these two Australian patients are truly cured or need to remain on treatment.

Warren Tong is the research editor for and

Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.

Copyright © 2014 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.


Reader Comments:

Comment by: Steve (Phoenix, Az) Sat., Oct. 4, 2014 at 4:55 pm UTC
Maybe I'm mistaken but, I thought the high mortality associated with STEM marrow transplants was due to the fact that folks are irradiated essentially killing off all of their existing marrow.

Why can a partial marrow transplant not be done with HIV resistant marrow?
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Comment by: Mike (San Franscico, CA) Mon., Aug. 4, 2014 at 5:36 pm UTC
If that's so, I'll take a bone marrow transplant now, please.
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Comment by: being human (maryland) Tue., Jul. 29, 2014 at 5:29 pm UTC
I think it stays in the teeth. If I were them. I would have all my teeth removed and put implants in.
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Comment by: joe (c.t) Mon., Jul. 28, 2014 at 8:29 pm UTC
holly jeepers
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Comment by: Dave (UK) Fri., Jul. 25, 2014 at 2:18 am UTC
Fascinating and encouraging. Thanks.
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Comment by: Justice (Toronto) Thu., Jul. 24, 2014 at 4:24 pm UTC
So how can you say this is some sort of cure if the person needs to remain on treatment.
If the virus bounces back it was never a cure, if someone has to stay on medication then we may never know if the virus was cured.
This is a smart virus and has confussed many of us treating and living with the virus for over 25 years.
Just wish there would be some new and encouranging news after 30 years.
The only thing that is left is to find a cure and treat all who are HIV+. Sick of fighting the Stigma and Discrimination from non educated individuals.

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Please note: Knowledge about HIV changes rapidly. Note the date of this summary's publication, and before treating patients or employing any therapies described in these materials, verify all information independently. If you are a patient, please consult a doctor or other medical professional before acting on any of the information presented in this summary. For a complete listing of our most recent conference coverage, click here.


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