A Medical Team Reports the Fourth Case of a Patient Cured of HIV

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    A man who has lived with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) since the 1980s has been cured, his doctors said. To treat the leukemia, the patient received a bone marrow transplant from a donor who was naturally resistant to the virus.

    The 66-year-old man, who prefers not to be identified, stopped taking anti-HIV drugs. This is the fourth such case reported by scientists. The patient said he is “beyond grateful” that the virus is no longer in his body.

    The man received medical care at City of Hope Comprehensive Cancer Treatment Center in Duarte, California. Many of his friends died of HIV before antiretroviral drugs could give patients almost normal life expectancy.

    “I no longer have HIV”

    HIV damages the immune system. This can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and the body having a hard time fighting infections.

    “When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, like many others, I thought it was a death sentence. I never thought I would live to see the day I no longer have HIV”, the man said in a statement. However, he did not receive this therapy because of HIV, but to treat leukemia that he has suffered from since he was 63 years old.

    The medical team decided that the patient needed a bone marrow transplant to replace his cancerous blood cells. By coincidence, the donor was resistant to HIV. The virus enters the body’s white blood cells through a microscopic gate: a protein called CCR5. However, some people, including the donor, have mutations in CCR5 that close the door and prevent entry of HIV.

    Today, the cure is still the “holy grail”

    The patient was closely monitored after the transplant and HIV levels became undetectable in his body; he has been in remission for over 17 months. “We were thrilled to inform him that his HIV is in remission, and that he no longer needs to take the antiretroviral therapy that he had received for more than 30 years”, said Dr. Jana Dickter, an infectious disease specialist at City of Hope.

    This first happened in 2011, when Timothy Ray Brown, known as the ‘Berlin patient’, became the first person in the world to be cured of HIV. Brown ended up dying of cancer in September 2020.

    There have already been 3 similar cases in the last 3 years. The City of Hope patient is the oldest to receive this treatment and the longest living with HIV. However, bone marrow transplants are not going to revolutionize HIV treatment for the 38 million infected people in the world. “It is a complex procedure with significant potential side effects. So it is not really a suitable option for most people living with HIV”, Dickter explained.

    Despite this, researchers are looking for new ways to target the CCR5 gateway, using gene therapy as a potential treatment. The case was disclosed at the Aids 2022 conference in Montreal, Canada. “The cure remains the holy grail of HIV research”, said Professor Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the International AIDS Society. Lewin recalled that there have been “a handful of individual cases of cure before”, which provided “continued hope for people living with HIV and inspiration for the scientific community”.

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