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Doctors examine AIDS 'cure' case

May 17, 2011 at 11:44 AM   |   Comments

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SAN FRANCISCO, May 17 (UPI) -- Doctors say a 45-year-old man in California may be the first person ever cured of AIDS as a result of the discovery of an apparent HIV immunity gene.

Timothy Ray Brown tested positive for the human immunodeficiency virus in 1995, but has entered scientific journals as the first person to have that HIV virus completely eliminated from his body in what doctors have termed a "functional cure," KCBS-TV, San Francisco, reported Monday.

In 2007 Brown was living in Berlin, dealing with both HIV and leukemia, when scientists there performed a bone marrow stem cell transplant to treat the leukemia.

Scientists said Brown received stem cells from a donor who was among the 1 percent of Caucasians who are immune to HIV.

"I quit taking my HIV medication the day that I got the transplant and haven't had to take any since," said Brown, dubbed "The Berlin Patient" by the scientific community.

AIDS researcher Dr. Jay Levy of the University of California, San Francisco, said Brown's case opens the door to the field of "cure research."

However, doctors stressed Brown's radical procedure may not be suitable to many other people with HIV because of the difficulty in doing stem cell transplants and finding the right donor.

"You don't want to go out and get a bone marrow transplant because transplants themselves carry a real risk of mortality," UCSF's Dr. Paul Volberding said.

There are many unanswered questions about Brown's treatment, he said.

"One element of his treatment, and we don't know which, apparently allowed the virus to be purged from his body," Volberding said. "So it's going to be an interesting, I think productive, area to study."

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