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Is there an ethical obligation to report updates on important HIV cure studies?

Posted by RichardJefferys on 25 Jul 2017 at 13:31 GMT

It is now over four years since the publication of this study. As is evidenced by news reports from the ongoing 2017 IAS Conference on HIV Science in Paris, the VISCONTI cohort continue to be cited as important examples of HIV remission. But there has been no published update on the status of these individuals. Lead author Asier Sáez-Cirión did provide some information in an addenda to a slide presentation given at the 2015 IAS conference in Vancouver (, revealing that one participant had experienced a loss of virological control and restarted ART while another displayed low level viral replication that appeared to be increasing in magnitude. A third participant was reported to have restarted treatment due to the diagnosis of a head and neck cancer. To my knowledge no information has been published on inflammatory biomarkers in the cohort, which might shed some additional light on their clinical prognosis.

There is a distinct contrast with the HIV remission cases reported in the Mississippi baby and Boston patients - when viral load rebounds occurred, the researchers involved promptly published updates (1, 2). I would argue that the importance of these reports to the HIV cure research effort confers an ethical obligation on researchers to inform the public when the status of any of the cases changes significantly, and am concerned that so little additional information on the VISCONTI cohort has been provided since the publication of this paper (which received extensive mainstream news coverage at the time).

1. Luzuriaga K, Gay H, Ziemniak C, Sanborn KB, Somasundaran M, Rainwater-Lovett K, Mellors JW, Rosenbloom D, Persaud D. Viremic relapse after HIV-1 remission in a perinatally infected child. N Engl J Med. 2015 Feb 19;372(8):786-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc1413931.
2. Henrich TJ, Hanhauser E, Marty FM, Sirignano MN, Keating S, Lee TH, Robles YP, Davis BT, Li JZ, Heisey A, Hill AL, Busch MP, Armand P, Soiffer RJ, Altfeld M, Kuritzkes DR.
Antiretroviral-free HIV-1 remission and viral rebound after allogeneic stem cell transplantation: report of 2 cases. Ann Intern Med. 2014 Sep 2;161(5):319-27. doi: 10.7326/M14-1027.

No competing interests declared.