Cured: How the Berlin Patients Defeated HIV and Forever Changed Medical Science
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Is the end of HIV upon us? Award-winning research scientist and HIV fellow at the Ragon Institute, Nathalia Holt, reveals the science behind the discovery of a functional cure and what it means for the millions affected by HIV and the history of the AIDS pandemic.
Two men, known in medical journals as the Berlin Patients, revealed answers to a functional cure for HIV. Their cures came twelve years apart, the first in 1996 and the second in 2008. Each received his own very different treatment in Berlin, Germany, and each result spurred a new field of investigation, fueling innovative lines of research and sparking hope for the thirty-four million people currently infected with HIV. For the first time, Nathalia Holt, who has participated in some of the most fruitful research in the field, tells the story of how we came to arrive at this astounding and controversial turning point.
Holt explores the two men’s stories on a personal level, looking at how their experiences have influenced HIV researchers worldwide—including one very special young family doctor who took the time to look closely at his patients—and how they responded to their medications.
Based on extensive interviews with the patients and their doctors as well as her own in-depth research, this book is an unprecedented look at how scientists pursue their inquiries, the human impact their research has, and what is and is not working in the relationship between Big Pharma and medical care.
virus and attack it, the test is positive, indicating that the person from whom the blood was taken is infected with HIV. But how do we know if the immune cells are attacking? We don’t need lab technicians to peer through a microscope at what is going on. In the case of a positive result, when the person’s antibodies bind to the foreign intruder, the fishing line is reeled in. The antibody is captured on the hook and a brilliant purple dye on the other end of the fishing pole is released. The
School and immediately moved back to Los Angeles. It was 1981; Ho was chief resident at Cedars-Sinai hospital. A strange, new group of patients started emerging, patients presenting with unusual opportunistic infections indicating that their immune systems weren’t functioning normally. As it would turn out, these were some of the earliest cases of AIDS in the United States. By chance, Ho saw four of the five first AIDS cases described. A report published by the CDC on June 5, 1981, documented
it is impossible to include all studies that could be considered relevant. I’ve included research that experts in the field believe is most pertinent and exciting. While most of this research is published, some studies are still in early stages, and therefore the results come from conferences and reports. It’s important to note that these types of data are not as established as that published in academic journals. This book is about two unique and controversial medical cases. In an effort to
has taken antiviral drugs for decades, even if they’ve eliminated all detectable virus in the blood, once they stop taking the antiviral therapy, the virus comes roaring back, returning to the same high levels it enjoyed before any drugs were taken. In less than one year, the virus becomes a part of our cells and ourselves. By the time we begin to feel the first mild symptoms of the disease, the virus has enacted wide-scale irreversible damage on our bodies. Yet we remain unconcerned, naively
delivered. Without the CCR5 message delivered, the protein can’t be expressed on the surface of the cell. This means that HIV can’t enter the cells—just as a person with a mutant CCR5 doesn’t express the protein on the surface of his T cells. Baltimore and Chen’s results, published in 2003, were promising. But the research stayed on the shelf because the next step was a human clinical trial, an expensive undertaking. “It wasn’t clear we could get support for it,” says Baltimore. Years later, he