[op-ed snap] The Delta 32 effect

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Mains Paper 2: Governance | mechanisms, laws, institutions & Bodies constituted for the protection & betterment of these vulnerable sections

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Delta 32

Mains level:  There is possibility of curing HIV and how it can be achieved.


NEWS

CONTEXT

A study published this week in Nature points out that one London HIV Patient received the bone marrow donation from a person who was born with a rare mutation, Delta 32. The transplant wiped out the immune cells vulnerable to HIV and replaced them with cells that are resistant to the virus.

History of HIV remission

  • The London Patient is the second HIV-infected to experience a long-term remission from the virus.
  • About 12 years ago, an American living in Germany — the Berlin Patient — also received a Delta 32 transplant and has remained free of the virus, ever since.
  • However, attempts to replicate the procedures undergone by the Berlin Patient in other HIV-infected people proved unsuccessful.
  • The virus returned as soon as they stopped the standard medications.

Doubts Regarding Total cure of HIV

  • There are reasons that the hopes of a total victory against HIV that have arisen after this week’s Nature study be tempered with realism.
  • Bone-marrow stem transplants are risky — they make a patient vulnerable to life-threatening diseases like acute anaemia — and are expensive procedures.
  • They are not likely to be the treatment option for a vast majority of the 37 million HIV-infected; it’s hard enough to find tissue-matched donors for so many people, let alone locate one that also has the Delta 32 mutation.

New ways to fight HIV

  • The London Patient’s recovery offers a viable pathway to combat HIV.
  • The Nature study demonstrates the potency of gene-editing as therapy for those infected with the virus, similar to the treatment for sickle-cell disease, haemophilia and certain types of cancer.
  • Researchers in different parts of the world are working on procedures to edit people’s immune cells to make them HIV resistant — they would mimic Delta 32.
  • They are also trying to develop reverse vaccination — much like for small pox — where an immune response is engineered to target the virus.
  • Currently, those affected by HIV can have near normal lifespans.
  • However, the cocktail of drugs needed to keep the virus at bay are expensive, and have serious side effects. The London Patient’s recovery portends that cure from HIV is not far away.

 

Health Sector – UHC, National Health Policy, Family Planning, Health Insurance, etc.
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