|Timothy Henrich of the Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston speaks at the International Aids Society Conference in Kuala Lumpur. Photograph: Lai Seng Sin/AP|
By Sarah Boseley
Two men who became free of HIV infection after bone marrow transplants have stopped taking Aids drugs without any sign of the virus returning, according to scientists.
Talk of a cure is premature, the doctors told the International Aids Society conference in Kuala Lumpur, but the news will raise hopes that progress can be made towards a treatment that will not only keep the virus at bay but eventually eradicate it.
The two men, who had longstanding HIV infections, were given bone marrow transplants at the Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Centre in Boston because they were suffering from cancers of the blood. Tests showed that as their own cells were replaced by cells from the bone marrow donor, the levels of virus in their blood steadily dropped to undetectable.
One of the men stopped taking antiretroviral medication to suppress HIV almost four months ago and the other seven weeks ago. They still have no detectable HIV in their blood cells.
"While these results are exciting, they do not yet indicate that the men have been cured," said Timothy Henrich, from the division of infectious diseases at Brigham. "Long-term follow up of at least one year will be required to understand the full impact of a bone marow transplant on HIV persistence."
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