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Man known as the Dusseldorf Patient becomes third person in the world to be cured of HIV
A man, known as the Dusseldorf Patient, has become the third person in the world to be confirmed as cured of HIV after receiving a stem cell transplant a decade ago. The news is being hailed as a significant breakthrough in HIV research, and scientists hope that it will pave the way for more cures in the future.
The 53-year-old was deemed cured after going four years without anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and having no relapse. The treatment, which is widely used to suppress the virus, was given to the patients after they developed acute blood disorders along with HIV. The Berlin and London Patients were the other two patients who were previously cured after stem cell transplants.
Stem cell transplants involve destroying unhealthy blood cells and replacing them with healthy stem cells, which carry significant risks of complications, such as infections after the operation or transplanted cells attacking other cells in the host’s body. Due to these dangers, the treatment is currently only carried out where patients have other life-threatening diseases.
The Dusseldorf Patient, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2008, received his transplant in 2013 after developing leukaemia in the months after starting ART. He expressed pride in his team of doctors for curing him of HIV and leukaemia, adding that he celebrated the 10th anniversary of his transplant on Valentine’s Day with his donor as a guest of honour.
“Following our intensive research, we can now confirm that it is fundamentally possible to prevent the replication of HIV on a sustainable basis by combining two key methods,” said Dr Bjorn-Erik Ole Jensen of Dusseldorf University Hospital. “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.”
Although stem cell therapies are unlikely to become widely available anytime soon, researchers are optimistic that the knowledge gained from curing these patients will help future studies into HIV cures. The availability of ART has risen dramatically after a major worldwide push in recent years, with 75% of all people with HIV receiving it in 2021, according to World Bank data. However, coverage remains low in many poorer countries, and researchers are calling for further research into how HIV can be cured outside the narrow set of framework conditions described.
In the meantime, the success stories of the Berlin, London, and Dusseldorf Patients are a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the tireless efforts of medical professionals. Their stories provide hope for millions of people living with HIV around the world, and serve as a reminder that with determination and perseverance, anything is possible.