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A Cure for HIV? Past Research of the CCR5 Delta 32 Mutation

My game plan is to research, condense my findings, and translate it into everyday language for busy people.

will-there-ever-be-a-cure-for-hiv

With as devastating a disease as HIV, will there ever be a cure? Research is being done in regard to finding a cure for HIV infections, which affect the lives of millions, and which can cause death and leave people often marginalized, disenfranchised, and isolated due to the stigma against the disease.

HIV can be controlled by using antivirals. Antivirals are medications used to decrease the amount of AIDS/HIV in peoples' blood. So, someone with this disease can live a long and functional life. However, not everyone has access to the antivirals, and HIV can cause death if it is not treated. There has been some evidence that a genetic mutation in the white blood cell might hold some answers as to developing a cure for this disease.

How Does HIV Infect Humans?

The way the HIV virus spreads is that once it enters the human body, the virus latches on to the CCR5 receptor of the white blood cell and spreads. It was discovered around 20 years ago that 10% of people in Europe and the United States have a mutation of the CCR5 receptor delta 32 which makes it so that the receptor is not able to work and HIV cannot enter the white blood cell.

The CCR5 Delta 32 Mutation

This type of mutation is found in people of Northern European descent. Yet, it only works in the one percent who inherited it from both parents. These lucky few who inherited this from both parents are referred to as homozygotes. These people are one hundred times less likely to come down with HIV than someone without the mutation if they have exposure to HIV.

will-there-ever-be-a-cure-for-hiv

Origins of the CCR5 Delta 32 Mutation

This mutation existed thousands of years before HIV came into existence. The exact origins of the mutation are still highly debated and really unknown. There is a general theory that, thousands of years ago, there was a virus or a series of viruses that killed off anyone who didn't have the mutation. So, the people who had the mutation were the only ones who survived and procreated, causing even more people to have the mutation. It was suggested that it was the Bubonic Plague. However, that was a bacterial infection. It could not have been Smallpox because that didn't develop until the 1600s.

There were two researchers who tried to explain which epidemics caused the mutation to flourish and why it is so common in Scandinavia and Europe but not near the Mediterranean. Their theory is that, in the Middle Ages, there were plagues in Europe from 1340 to 1660 and these plagues caused the mutation to become more abundant. Their belief is that these plagues consisted of reoccurring viral infections that were lethal and used the CCR5 receptor to get access into the white blood cells. These outbreaks reoccurred in Hungary, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and also Denmark and continued through the 1700s. However, some disagree with this and think that these plagues were bacterial and not viral.

The Berlin Patient and the London Patient

Two men, one called "The Berlin Patient" and the other called "The London Patient," received stem cell transplantations for treating cancer, or to replace cells damaged by disease, infection, or chemotherapy with healthy cells so that the immune systems of the patients could rebuild.

In both of these patients, the doctors chose donors who had the CCR5 delta 32 mutation. This was done because the doctors thought it would help fight the HIV infections occurring in their bodies as well as cancer.

Recovery of the Berlin Patient

Timothy Ray Brown, who was known as the "Berlin patient," was given a diagnosis of HIV in 1995. He took medication to suppress the viral load in his blood. That is, he took medication to decrease the amount of the virus in his blood. However, ten years later he was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML). After four counts of chemotherapy, the cancer went into remission. Yet, it came back and he needed a stem cell transplant.

The treatment team he was under decided that if they could get a donor with the mutation of the CCR5 delta gene, it might help get rid of the HIV infection. It was reported that three months after the transplant, HIV was no longer detectable in his blood despite the fact that he had stopped taking antivirals to treat HIV. Today, it is reported that this person is still free of antivirals and takes pre-exposure prophylaxis every day. This is to say he does not have HIV.

Timothy Ray Brown

Timothy Ray Brown

"Be compassionate to all your patients and if you can , try develop a personal relationship with your patients. There is no room for stigma."

— Timothy Ray Brown

The stem cell transplant treatment is a very intense therapy involving chemotherapy, so it really isn't seen as a good treatment option for most people infected with HIV. Some people think that the case with Brown was an anomaly brought on by intense cancer treatment and holds no promise of a cure.

Also, the mutation of CCR5 Delta 32 does not protect against all forms of HIV. There is a form of HIV called CXCR4-tropic which uses a different form to enter the cells. However, the London patient did provide some hope that there might be something to this mutation and using it to treat the HIV infection.

Maraviroc Antiviral Drug

A drug has been created called maraviroc (Selzentry Celsentri) that causes the mutation of the CCR5 Delta 32 by binding to the CCR5 receptor. This makes it impossible for HIV to bind to the receptor. The drug has to be taken daily and research is being done to see if a longer-lasting version can be made.

Action of Maraviroc

Action of Maraviroc

There's a nice menu of things that we could possibly do now. What these two patients have shown is that attacking the reservoir of infected cells while at the same time providing shiny, new H.I.V. resistant immune cells can result in a cure."

— Paula Cannon Ph.D., a molecular biologist who studies H.I.V. at the University of California

In conclusion, HIV is a highly devastating disease that affects millions globally. More research needs to go into finding a cure and ending this terrible disease that is affecting the lives of so many people. Some evidence has been found that a gene mutation holds the possibility of finding a cure. However, it is still being studied and has not been developed into any type of cure for the general public. There is still hope for a cure.

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

Comments

ATVAerialand SatelliteCom on June 11, 2020:

Awesome

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