For just the second time since the global epidemic began, a patient appears to have been cured of infection with HIV, the virus that causes Aids.
The news comes nearly 12 years to the day after the first patient known to be cured, a feat that researchers have long tried, and failed, to duplicate.
The surprise success now confirms that a cure for HIV infection is possible, if difficult, researchers said.
The investigators are to publish their report Tuesday in the journal Nature and to present some of the details at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle.
Publicly, the scientists are describing the case as a long-term “remission.” In interviews, most experts are calling it a cure, with the caveat that it is hard to know how to define the word when there are only two known instances.
Both milestones resulted from bone-marrow transplants given to infected patients. But the transplants were intended to treat cancer in the patients, not HIV.
Bone-marrow transplantation is unlikely to be a realistic treatment option in the near future.
Powerful drugs are now available to control HIV infection, while the transplants are risky, with harsh side effects that can last for years.
But rearming the body with immune cells similarly modified to resist HIV might well succeed as a practical treatment, experts said.