A bone marrow transplant made this American considered an “ambassador of hope” for those affected by the virus
He managed to extinguish the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from his body, but a disease cost him his life years later.
The first person to be cured of HIV, Timothy Ray Brown, known as the “Berlin patient”, passed away from cancer on Wednesday.
Aged 54 and born in the United States, he was diagnosed with the virus while living in Berlin in 1995.
Brown received in 2007 a bone marrow transplant from a donor who had natural resistance to HIV.
However, that same year, a type of blood cancer called leukemia acute myeloid. A disease that seriously affects the production of red and white blood cells and platelets.
Brown’s bone marrow transplant made him no longer need antiviral drugs and he remained free of the virus that can cause AIDS.
The International AIDS Society said Brown gave the world hope that an HIV cure is possible.
His treatment consisted of destroying his bone marrow, which was producing the cells cancerous, and then undergo a transplant.
The transfer came from a donor who had a rare mutation in part of their DNA called CCR5 gene.
It is a set of genetic actions that can block the gate that the human immunodeficiency virus passes through to infect cells.
Mutations in CCR5 give people resistance to HIV.
“I stopped taking my medication the day I had the transplant, after three months there was no HIV in my body,” Brown told the BBC in 2012.
The virus was never detected in her body again. In fact it was “cured“.
“I was excited about it, but I was still afraid that I might come back, but it wasn’t,” he added that time.
The leukemia found in Brown worsened earlier this year and spread to his brain and spinal cord.
“It is with great sadness that I announce that Timothy passed away, surrounded by me and his friends, after a battle five months, “his partner Tim Hoeffgen posted on Facebook.
He added that Brown “dedicated his life to telling his story about the cure for HIV and became an ambassador of hope.”
Closer to a cure?
The Brown Cure was too risky and aggressive to be used routinely.
The method is also considered too expensive for the 38 million people, many of them in sub-Saharan Africa, who are believed to be living with HIV infection.
Yet Brown’s story inspired scientists, patients, and the world that a cure could eventually be found.
The International AIDS Society said it was in mourning.
“We owe Timothy and his doctor, Gero Hutter, enormous gratitude for opening the door for scientists to explore the concept that a cure for HIV is possible,” said Professor Adeeba Kamarulzaman, president of the organization.
The second person cured of HIV was announced earlier this year. Adam Castillejo, known as the “london patient“He received similar treatment to Brown.
“Although the Timothy and Adam cases are not a viable large-scale strategy for a cure, they symbolize a key moment in the search for a cure for HIV,” said Professor Sharon Lewin, director of the Doherty Institute in Melbourne, Australia. .
The researcher added that Timothy “was a promoter by putting the possibility of a cure on the political and scientific agenda.”
“It was the hope that one day we can honor his legacy with a safe, cost-effective, and widely accessible strategy to achieve a cure for HIV using gene editing or techniques that boost immune control,” he concluded.
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