Doctors in Barcelona, Spain believe that they have found a possible cure for HIV via a blood transfer from a donor with a genetic mutation, but researchers warn that it’s going to be a long time coming. HIV Plus Magazine reports that the Spanish research team is following the similar hypothesis to Harvard researchers who believe that a blood transplant from a donor with the CCR5 Delta 32 genetic mutation could “close the door” on HIV, as it prevents HIV from entering healthy white cells and replicating. This mutation occurs in about 1 percent of the population. The announcement was spurred by encouraging results in the experimental treatment given to a 37-year-old man who contracted HIV in 2009.
This “Barcelona Patient” developed lymphoma in 2012, and when he received his transplant of umbilical cord blood, doctors made sure it was from a donor with the CCR5 Delta 32. “We suggested a transplant of blood from an umbilical cord but from someone who had the mutation because we knew from ‘the Berlin patient’ that as well as [ending] the cancer, we could also eradicate HIV,” Rafael Duarte, the director of the Haematopoietic Transplant Programme at the Catalan Oncology Institute in Barcelona, explained to Spanish news site The Local. As in the case of the “Berlin Patient,” Timothy Ray Brown, the HIV-positive man who experienced a bone marrow transplant from a donor with the mutation and remains cured of both leukemia and HIV six years later. Unfortunately, the “Barcelona Patient” wasn’t so lucky; he died of cancer.
But he remained HIV free three months after his transplant, spurring doctors at Spain’s National Transplant Organization to back the world’s first clinical trials of umbilical cord blood transplants for HIV patients with blood cancers, as reported by the Latin Post. Javier Martínez, a virologist from the research foundation Irsicaixa, is quoted as saying that while their trials are aimed at helping HIV-positive cancer patients but it could “allow us to speculate about a cure for HIV.” March 2015 will mark the beginning of these trials. ( By Winnie McCroy from Edgemedianetwork.com – Note: Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women’s news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.