Last year, I explained that, although Timothy Ray Brown (aka "The Berlin Patient") appears to have successfully defeated HIV, it's a little too soon to claim that HIV, itself, has been defeated.
Jamie Vernon, a scientist who is working on an HIV vaccine, has a great post up on Scientific American today, which gets more into detail about the drawbacks to The Berlin Patient regimen, and why this cure might not be THE cure.
There are several reasons why Brown’s case is not likely to be translatable to the millions of others whose lives are threatened by this disease. Brown and Hütter took extreme measures and suffered dangerous setbacks in order to achieve this outcome.
First, Brown had been highly successful at controlling his infection using antiretroviral therapy. In order to undergo leukemia treatments, he agreed to stop taking his HIV drugs. This led to a dangerous spike in his viral load. Fortunately, after receiving the stem cell transplant, the virus went to undetectable levels and remained so. For the record, no one has ever stopped taking HIV drugs without experiencing a reemergence of the virus.
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.