Patients Show No Signs of HIV after Bone Marrow Transplant

HIV Positive Men Show No Signs of HIV after Bone Marrow Transplant and Discontinuation of Anti-Retroviral Therapy

Boston, MA – Two Brigham and Women’s Hospital patients with longstanding HIV infections who underwent bone marrow transplants have stopped anti-retroviral therapy and have no detectable HIV in their blood cells.  One patient stopped anti-retroviral therapy 15 weeks ago, the other stopped 7 weeks ago.  These new findings will be presented on July 3, 2013 at the International AIDS Society Conference (IAS 2013) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by Timothy Henrich, MD and Daniel Kuritzkes, MD, physician-researchers in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

“While these results are exciting, they do not yet indicate that the men have been cured,” said Henrich.  “Long-term follow up of at least one year will be required to understand the full impact of a bone marrow transplant on HIV persistence.”

Last summer, Henrich and Kuritzkes announced that the virus was easily detected in blood lymphocytes of both men prior to their transplants and became undetectable by eight months post-transplant.  However, at the time, the men remained on anti-retroviral therapy.  

Since coming off anti-retroviral therapy this spring, the men continue to have no detectable HIV DNA or RNA in their blood.  The men are frequently monitored and researchers have expanded on their prior findings by further examining large volumes of cells, plasma and tissue.

“We demonstrated at least a 1,000 to 10,000 fold reduction in the size of the HIV reservoir in the peripheral blood of these two patients, but the virus could still be present in other tissues such as the brain or gastrointestinal track,” said Henrich.  “If virus does return, it would suggest that these other sites are an important reservoir of infectious virus and new approaches to measuring the reservoir at relevant sites will be needed to guide the development of HIV curative strategies.”

This research is supported by amfAR: The Foundation for AIDS Research, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases grants number 1K23AI098480-01A1; UM1 AI068636, P30 AI060354, U19 AI096109 and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.