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How does ‘Stem cell transplant’ cures HIV patients

HIV primarily targets CD4 immune cells in the human body, making it more difficult for an individual to defend against secondary infections. The CCR5 receptors on the surface of CD4 immune cells allow the HIV virus to enter the host.

The National Centre of Biotechnology Information claims that the CCR5-delta 32 mutation, by essentially blocking the passage, prevents the development of these surface-bound HIV viral receptors.

Just 1% of people on earth carry the CCR5-delta 32 mutation in two copies, meaning they got it from both parents. One copy of the mutation is present in 20% of persons, usually those of European ancestry. Hence, those who have the mutation are almost immune to the virus.

Finding a compatible donor in the first instance would be extremely challenging given the mutation’s rarity and the almost 38.4 million individuals living with HIV worldwide, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). The donor pool for many, especially those from nations with high HIV prevalence, reduces even more when the mutation occurs mostly in Caucasians.

Yet, experts think it is extremely improbable that bone marrow transplants could be made available to everyone with HIV, even if donors were to become available. This is due to the fact that it is a significant surgery with significant dangers, particularly the chance of the recipient rejecting the given bone marrow.
Also, there is a chance that the virus will evolve and find new ways to infiltrate cells.


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