A 53-year-old man in Germany is the third-ever person to be officially cured of HIV, based on a newly published scientific study.
The person, identified only as “the Düsseldorf Patient,” was declared cured of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) after his bone marrow cells were replaced with HIV-resistant stem cells from a donor.
The HIV patient, also diagnosed with leukemia, received the stem cell transplant in February 2013, as per a study published on Monday within the scientific journal Nature. The journal claimed the Düsseldorf Patient is the third person to ever be cured of HIV.
The patient was monitored within the years after the stem cell procedure and continued to undergo antiretroviral therapy (ART), a standard treatment for HIV that suppresses the virus to undetectable levels and prevents transmission to others.
In 2018, doctors halted the patient’s ART. Even without the treatment, researchers say the Düsseldorf Patient has remained HIV-free for 4 years now.
The successful treatment of this HIV patient was originally announced at a conference in 2019, though doctors couldn’t say on the time whether the patient was cured or in remission.
For most individuals diagnosed with HIV, the infection isn’t curable, though it is feasible to live a protracted and healthy life with proper treatment. If left untreated, HIV can result in acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is potentially life-threatening.
Stem cell transplants aren’t available to most HIV patients, as they’re incredibly high-risk procedures.
In keeping with the study, the Düsseldorf Patient — like the opposite two patients cured of HIV — received the stem cell transplant with the first goal of eliminating cancer. The donated stem cells come from an individual with an incredibly rare genetic mutation involving the CCR5 protein. HIV uses the CCR5 protein to enter immune cells, however the mutation, which is present in just one per cent of the human population, makes this not possible.
The first-ever person to be cured of HIV was Timothy Ray Brown in 2009. Known on the time only as “the Berlin Patient,” Brown had a blood stem cell transplant to treat leukemia. He died because of this of cancer in 2020 but was HIV-free up until his death.
Stem cell transplants aren’t being proposed as treatment for HIV, though scientists hope to make use of the knowledge from this case, and others, to find out a approach to genetically modify a patient’s existing genes to incorporate the HIV-resistant mutation.
Several vaccines are also within the works to stop HIV, though there has not been extensive progress.
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