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HIV Resurgence In ‘Boston Patients’ Frustrates, Informs Research Into Cure

The news that “HIV has reappeared in the blood of two Boston patients who scientists had hoped had been cured of their infections … is yet another cautionary tale of how researchers can never afford to underestimate the human immunodeficiency virus’s ability to hide out in patients’ bodies and overcome their most ingenious efforts to eliminate it,” NPR’s “Shots” blog reports (Knox, 12/6). “The patients had received a treatment regimen similar to that given to Timothy Ray Brown, known as the ‘Berlin patient,’ who doctors said in 2009 had been cured of the virus by a bone-marrow transplant with cells that were resistant to HIV infection,” Nature/Scientific American writes, noting, “Unlike Brown, however, the two ‘Boston patients’ … received bone-marrow transplants with cells that were not resistant to HIV” (Hayden, 12/8).

“Although there was never an expectation that risky bone-marrow transplants would soon be a routine treatment for HIV, the news was frustrating to AIDS experts,” the New York Times reports. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, “said the failure ‘doesn’t put an end to this avenue of research, but it certainly does put a damper on it,’” the newspaper writes (McNeil, 12/6). “Other people, including a child who is currently 36 months old and a group of 14 patients in France, have been able to go off antiviral drugs without the virus reappearing (so far) if they get treatment early enough after first being infected,” Business Insider notes (Welsh, 12/6).