Medical doctors have announced that the third man and the fourth person ever has been cured of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. He had been living with HIV for more than 30 years after he was diagnosed with the virus in the 1980s.
The man was cured after receiving a bone marrow transplant to treat blood cancer leukaemia from a donor naturally resistant to the virus.
Here is what you need to know.
Who is the man who was cured of HIV?
The full identity of the man who was cured cannot be divulged due to privacy concerns. He does not want to be identified.
However, he is 66 years old and is being called the “City of Hope” patient after the hospital where he was treated in Duarte, California.
According to the City of Hope hospital,
“The man who was diagnosed with HIV in 1988 has been in remission from the virus for over 17 months after stopping antiretroviral therapy (ART) for the disease following a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor for acute leukaemia… The patient received the transplant nearly 3 1/2 years ago at City of Hope.
“The man lived with HIV for over 31 years, the longest of any of the three previous patients with HIV who have gone into remission after receiving a stem cell transplant for a blood cancer and HIV.
“At 63 years old at the time of his transplant, he is also the oldest patient with HIV and blood cancer to undergo a transplant and achieve remission from both conditions.”
How Was He Cured of HIV?
The patient was cured of HIV using a highly dangerous stem cell treatment reserved only for patients who are also battling leukaemia.
The City of Hope Hospital said,
“Following the development of a form of leukaemia more prevalent in those with HIV later in life — acute myelogenous leukaemia — the man received the life-saving stem cell transplant in early 2019 from a volunteer stem cell donor who had a rare genetic mutation, the homozygous CCR5 delta 32 mutation, that makes people resistant to most strains of HIV infection.
“CCR5 is a receptor on CD4+ immune cells, and HIV uses that receptor to enter and attack the immune system. But the CCR5 mutation blocks that pathway, which stops HIV from replicating.”
What Did The Man Say After Being Cured?
In a statement, the man said:
“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 that I no longer have HIV.”
Can Anyone With HIV Be Treated Using The Transplant Method?
Dr Jana Dickter, an infectious diseases doctor at the City of Hope Hospital, said the bone marrow treatment is unlikely to become available for ordinary people.
Dr Dickter told the BBC,
“It’s a complex procedure with significant potential side effects. So, it’s not really a suitable option for most people living with HIV.”
You should also note that medical experts stress that it is highly unethical to attempt an HIV cure through a stem cell transplant in an otherwise healthy patient.
This is because stem cell transplants are highly invasive, risky and sometimes fatal. The transplants are generally offered only to people with fatal cancer who have exhausted all other options.