I, Science News – 11 March 2019

First up, the second patient in history has been functionally cured of HIV after receiving a bone marrow transplant from an individual with a mutation in the CCR5 gene which confers resistance to HIV. After having the transplant 3 years ago, the London Patient, who wishes to remain anonymous, has stayed well even though he stopped taking antivirals 18 months ago. In 2008 Timothy Brown, the Berlin Patient, became the first individual worldwide to be functionally cured by the same method. Although it is not a viable large-scale strategy for a cure, it is an important proof of concept, with the hope that in the future gene technology or antibody techniques can be used to adopt the strategy more widely.

 

Next, twin trials of monthly antiretroviral injections have shown that long-acting medicines can be just as effective as daily pills in preventing HIV replication. The injections contained a combination of cabotegravir and rilpivirine, both of which have a far longer half-life in the human body than the drugs contained in the pills HIV patients currently take. In both studies, the majority of the patients said that they preferred the monthly injections to the pills and in the future, this new treatment is hoped to help the United Nations meet their goal in reducing the spread of HIV.

 

And finally, results from the largest ever HIV prevention trial have been reported this week at a conference in Seattle. The POPART trial randomly assigned communities in southern Africa to either receive a standard package of HIV prevention methods, or to include a new ‘test and treat’ strategy, where the whole community is tested for HIV and those who are positive immediately receive treatment. The new method resulted in a 30% fall in novel infections over the course of the trial, which included 1 million participants. The study was headed by researchers here at Imperial College and The London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with a wider network.

This week’s news was presented and written by Madeleine Openshaw and Harry Lampert, who are studying for a MSc in Science Communication at Imperial College London.

Banner image: Praying with Patient, Wikimedia

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