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CCR5 Receptors – Can they be a cure for HIV?

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February 24, 2023

Why in news?

A man from Germany, has become at least the third person to have been cured of HIV with the virus not being detectable in his body even 4 years after stopping the medicine.

What is the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)?

  • Type - HIV is a lentivirus, which is a sub-classification of the retrovirus.
  • AIDS - It causes the HIV infection which over time leads to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).
  • AIDS is a deadly condition in which the affected person’s immune system fails, leading to the spread of life-threatening infections and cancers in his body.
  • HIV demolishes a particular type of WBC (White Blood Cells) and the T-helper cells.
  • Transmission - HIV infection can occur by the transference of blood, breast milk, vaginal fluid, semen, or pre-ejaculate.

What is CCR5 mutation?

  • HIV mainly attacks the CD4 immune cells in the human body.
  • The CCR5 receptors on the surface of the CD4 immune cells act as a doorway for HIV virus.
  • However, the CCR5-delta 32 mutation prevents these receptors used by the HIV virus from forming on the surface, effectively removing the doorway.
  • Those with the mutation are almost immune to the HIV infection, although some cases have been reported.

What are the challenges in transplanting these receptors in HIV Patients?

  • Heavy load of HIV Patients - Mutation exist in very few people and nearly 38.4 million people living with HIV across the world.
  • It is very difficult to find a matching donor.
  • Restricted donor pool - The mutation occurs mainly among Caucasians, and restricted the donor pool further.
  • High risk - Bone marrow Transplant involves high risks, especially that of the person rejecting the donated marrow.
  • There is also the likelihood of the virus mutating to enter the cells through other mechanisms in such persons.

What are the current treatments for HIV?

  • Although there are no cures for the infection at present, the disease can be managed using antiretroviral therapy.
  • Anti-Retroviral Therapy - These medicines suppress the replication of the virus within the body, allowing the number of CD4 immune cells to bounce back.
  • The drugs have to be taken for life because the virus continues to persist in reservoirs across the body.
  • If the drugs are stopped, the virus can again start replicating and spreading.
  • When the viral levels are low, the likelihood of a person transmitting the infection is also low.
  • PrEP - Although there is no vaccine for HIV, there are Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) medicines that can be taken by people at high risk of contracting the infection.
  • PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%.

References

  1. Indian Express – Third patient is cured of HIV
  2. Wion – Duesseldorf patient cured of HIV
  3. DW – Germany's 'Düsseldorf Patient' cured of HIV
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