Are bone marrow transplants the key to an HIV cure? Two men who had both cancer and HIV appear free from both diseases after receiving transplants, researchers say. One man received replacement stem cells from a donor with a gene believed to protect against HIV, while the other's donor had no genetic immunity but the patient is still free of the virus three years later, the Australian reports. Both men, however, are still receiving anti-retroviral therapy—and two patients in Boston who were "cured" of HIV after bone marrow transplants saw the virus return after they stopped taking the drugs. A baby girl in Mississippi also thought to have been cured tested positive this month.
But although there's clearly a strong risk of relapse in the two latest patients, "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," a specialist who treated the Boston men tells Scientific American. "And if we can understand what that is and how that happens, it will really accelerate the field of cure search." The latest findings were released at the 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, which is mourning many researchers and their family members who died on Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. (Read more HIV/AIDS stories.)