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A third person may have become HIV-free after a bone marrow transplant

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HIV CURE

Following news of a man in the UK who has been free of HIV since his cancer treatment, a similar case has been reported by researchers who treated a patient in Germany. Together, they add to evidence that it may be possible to cure HIV.

The virus infects cells of the immune system, which are made in the bone marrow. A man known as the “Berlin patient” was the first person to become HIV-free after cancer treatment, back in 2007.

To treat his leukaemia – a cancer of the immune system – he was given a treatment that involved killing nearly all his immune cells with radiotherapy or drugs, and then replacing them with cells from a donor.

This donor was naturally resistant to HIV, thanks to a rare but natural mutation in a gene called CCR5.

Since then, no one else had had HIV eliminated from their body in the same way, until a second case was announced on Monday. This person, known as the London patient, was given bone marrow from a donor with the CCR5 mutation as a treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma, another immune cell cancer.

He was advised to stop taking the antiviral drugs that keep the virus in check about a year afterwards. Eighteen months later, the virus hasn’t returned.

A possible third case was then announced today, at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle. Biopsies from the gut and lymph nodes of this “Düsseldorf patient” show no infectious HIV after three months off antiviral drugs – only old fragments of viral genes that wouldn’t be able to multiply, says Annemarie Wensing of University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands, who worked on this case.

This is just like the Berlin and London patients, she says.

Researchers are tracking the few other people who have HIV and have then had a bone marrow transplant from someone with the CCR5 mutation in a collaboration called IciStem.

As well as the three reported so far, there are two others who haven’t yet stopped taking antiviral medications, says Javier Martinez-Picado of the IrsiCaixa AIDS Research Institute in Barcelona.

Bone marrow transplants can’t be used for people with HIV who don’t have cancer, because they carry considerable risks and are only used as a last resort.

But the fact that the approach seems to work could point the way to other strategies for a cure. One possible method might be to use gene editing to mutate the CCR5 gene in a person’s own immune cells.

NewScientist

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HEALTH

Perence Shiri, Zimbabwe Agriculture Minister Dies

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Perrence-Shiri-Dead

Zimbabwe’s agriculture minister Perence Shiri, a retired general who helped plot the ouster of Robert Mugabe in a 2017 coup, has died, President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday.

Perence Shiri, who commanded the air force for 25 years until he joined the government in 2017, was admitted to hospital on Tuesday, two government sources said. He died in the early hours of Wednesday.

“Shiri was a true patriot, who devoted his life to the liberation, independence and service of his country,” Mnangagwa said in a statement. He did not say how Shiri died.

But domestic media said Shiri, 65, succumbed to complications from the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus, which has infected 2,817 and killed 40 in Zimbabwe.

A liberation war veteran,Perrence Shiri had a chequered past. He commanded the army’s Fifth Brigade unit that carried out the 1980s massacres of thousands of civilians in western Zimbabwe as the government sought to quell an insurgency.

The army massacres, known as ‘Gukurahundi’, a Shona term meaning the ‘early rain that washes away the chaff’, remain a sore point for the people of the Matabeleland region, many of whom demand justice and reparations.

The main opposition Movement for Democratic Change accused Perence Shiri of being among the security chiefs who organised violence against its members after Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential vote in 2008.Reuters

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US buys nearly all of Gilead’s Covid-19 drug Remdesivir

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Remdesivir Covid 19

The US is buying nearly all the next three months’ projected production of Covid-19 treatment Remdesivir from US manufacturer Gilead.

The US health department announced on Tuesday it had agreed to buy 500,000 doses for use in American hospitals. Tests suggest Remdesivir cuts recovery times, though it is not yet clear if it improves survival rates.

Gilead did sign a licensing deal in May for production outside the US but it is still in its early stages.

“President Trump has struck an amazing deal to ensure Americans have access to the first authorised therapeutic for Covid-19,” Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said in a statement. A course of treatment in the US will cost $2,340 (£1,900).

Nine companies can make the drug under licence outside the US for distribution in 127 mostly poorer countries, and the cost is lower. But the project is still in its early stages.

Additional quantities are being manufactured for use in clinical trials. But critics say the US move to buy up so much stock from Gilead itself undermines international co-operation on COVID, given that other countries have taken part in trials of Remdesivir, originally an anti-viral against Ebola.

“The trial that gave the result that allowed Remdesivir to sell their drug wasn’t just done in the US. There were patients participating through other European countries, in the UK as well, and internationally, Mexico and other places,” Oxford University’s Prof Peter Horby told BBC Radio 4.

He said the move also had implications for any possible future vaccine, with the need for “a much stronger framework if we are going to develop these things and they’re going to be used for national emergencies”.

Senior Sussex University lecturer, Ohid Yaqub, said: “It so clearly signals an unwillingness to co-operate with other countries and the chilling effect this has on international agreements about intellectual property rights.”Some in the US have criticised the purchase price, as taxpayer money had helped fund Remdesivir’s development.BBC

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17 new Zimbabwe Covid-19 cases confirmed

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Zimbabwe Covid 19

Seventeen new cases of Covid-19 in Zimbabwe, a majority of which are from quarantine facilities were reported yesterday bringing the total number of cases to 591.

From the cases confirmed yesterday, 13 involved returnees from South Africa, one from Botswana while three were local transmissions. The Ministry of Health and Child Care daily update shows that one of the cases confirmed as a local transmission had to contact with a known confirmed case.

Investigations are, however, underway to establish the source of infection for the two other local transmissions. Cases of recoveries also continue to increase with the latest statistics from the update standing at 162, leaving the country with 421 active COVID 19 cases.

The latest recoveries were reported from Mashonaland East (3), Mashonaland Central (2), Bulawayo (2), Matabeleland North (2), Mashonaland West (1) and Manicaland (1). The number of people who have died from the virus remains at seven.

“To date, the total number of confirmed cases is 591, recovered 162, active cases, 422 and seven deaths since the onset of the outbreak on 20 March 2020,” reads part of the update.

Zimbabwe has so far conducted 67 755 tests for Covid-19 from which, 30 711 were diagnostic tests while the remaining were rapid tests done for screening purposes. The Herald

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