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Researchers confirm 5th patient cured of HIV after stem cell transplant

A major breakthrough was achieved this year as researchers have identified and confirmed that another patient has been completely cured of HIV.

According to a journal published in Nature Medicine, a 53-year-old man from Düsseldorf in Germany is the recent patient to be declared free of any signs of HIV.

Dubbed as the “Düsseldorf patient,” the man was diagnosed to be HIV positive in 2008. In 2011, it was also revealed that the man was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, a type of cancer that affects the blood and bone marrow, which made him undergo chemotherapy.

Given the circumstances, in 2013, the Düsseldorf patient then underwent a stem cell transplant intended to treat his leukemia using donor cells with a particular mutation that made his immune system resistant to HIV. A stem cell transplant is commonly performed to treat certain types of cancer.

Since then, the team, led by Bjorn-Erik Ole Jensen at the Düsseldorf University Hospital, declared the man cured of HIV up to today as they didn’t detect any signs or traces of the virus in his system even after he halted taking his antiretroviral treatment, an anti-HIV medication, in 2018.

The researchers have confirmed that the Düsseldorf patient is known to be the fifth person in the world to be free of HIV. He’s also the third person to be cured of the disease using the risky stem cell transplant. The said method was also performed on two more patients. The first one is the Berlin patient in 2009, who was later revealed to be Timothy Ray Brown, and the second is the London patient, identified to be Adam Castillejo, in 2019.

Before the Düsseldorf patient, two recent patients from the City of Hope and New York, respectively, were announced that they’re free of the virus in 2022. However, while they underwent the same procedure, it’s still too early to say if these two patients were cured.

This recent announcement was considered to be a major breakthrough in HIV treatment, as the result has been promising for all three patients.

“I think we can get a lot of insights from this patient and from these similar cases of HIV cure,” Jensen said in a statement. “We can now confirm that it is fundamentally possible to prevent the replication of HIV on a sustainable basis by combining two key methods.

“On the one hand, we have the extensive depletion of the virus reservoir in long-lived immune cells, and on the other hand, the transfer of HIV resistance from the donor immune system to the recipient, ensuring that the virus has no chance to spread again,” the virologist explained.

However, he noted that stem cell transplantation can’t be used and performed for everyone with HIV. He added that further studies are still needed to replicate the cure contained in the said transplant.

“The third case of HIV-1 cure after allogeneic provides detailed information on the virological and immunological signature before and after analytical treatment interruption (ATI) and generates valuable insights that will hopefully guide future cure strategies,” Jensen and his team wrote in the study.

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