(CMR) A remarkable medical breakthrough has been achieved in Germany as a 53-year-old man has been certified as HIV-free, making him one of only a few people in history to be cured of the virus. He received a stem cell transplant using HIV-resistant donor cells a decade ago and also stopped antiretroviral therapy for more than four years.
He currently has no detectable HIV and is now officially declared cured. The man was treated for acute myeloid leukemia, a life-threatening blood cancer, in 2011. In 2013 he received a stem cell transplant from an unrelated donor with two rare genetic mutations. This deleted the receptors most strains of HIV use to enter CD4 cells. This essentially gave the recipient a new HIV-resistant immune system.
“From the outset, the aim was to treat both the leukemia and the HIV,”
Professor Guido Kobbe of Düsseldorf University Hospital
Researchers discovered immune cells responding to HIV in his body, and no evidence of the virus replicating. After ceasing antiretroviral therapy in 2018 to confirm his cure, the results were published by Nature Medicine. After more than five years of undetectable HIV, the man and his medical team tested his blood using ultrasensitive assays and found no evidence of replication-competent HIV.
The “Dusseldorf patient,” as he is now known, is believed to be the fifth person to be cured of HIV. This discovery shows that it is possible to remove HIV from the body, though it remains a difficult task.
Nevertheless, scientists are investigating whether HIV patients' own bone marrow can be genetically altered to carry the same mutation, as this procedure poses high risks and may not be widely available.
The presence of HIV in more than 38 million people worldwide has been a daunting challenge for medical professionals, with experimental therapies such as HIV vaccines showing little promise in recent times.
However, this incredible news is a glimmer of hope that a cure for the virus is achievable. Though the treatment that saved the Dusseldorf patient may not be replicable for all HIV patients, the development of a cure could lead to similar groundbreaking discoveries that transform the future of medicine.