New HIV Treatment: Bone Marrow Transplant Clears Men of Virus

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A view of the human immunodeficiency virus. Image by the CDC.

A view of the human immunodeficiency virus. Image by the CDC.

A new treatment for HIV is in the works: Bone marrow transplants could be the answer to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

This new HIV treatment looks promising: With bone marrow transplants, doctors have cleared two men of the HIV virus.

However, researchers are quick to point out that we shouldn’t call the new treatment a ‘cure’ just yet, as the human immunodeficiency virus could still come back.

HIV Research Subjects

Almost a year ago, Timothy Henrich, MD and Daniel Kuritzkes, MD, physician-researchers in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital presented promising results at the International AIDS Conference.

These doctors discovered that when they used bone marrow transplants in two men with HIV, the men showed no signs of HIV after eight months post-transplant.

Doctors Henrich and Kuritzkes expected to find traces of HIV in the patient’s cells, but so far have not found any indications of HIV infection.

One of the men had the bone marrow transplant two years ago, and the other four years ago – both patients remained on the medications. What’s bringing this therapy back into the news is the fact that these two men went off their antiretrovial therapy (ART) earlier this year and still show no traces of HIV. One man has gone 15 weeks without ART and the other man has gone seven weeks without ART.

Of course a longer follow-up period is necessary – and there are also complications to having a bone marrow transplant, so this treatment may not be for everyone.

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