(PresidentialHill.com)- A Düsseldorf man with HIV is now free of the virus after receiving a stem-cell transplant for leukemia, according to a new study published in Nature Medicine.
The 53-year-old German is now only of only a few people known to have been cured of HIV after undergoing stem cell replacement for leukemia or lymphoma.
According to the study, the HIV-positive Düsseldorf leukemia patient received a stem cell transplant in 2013 from a donor who had a mutation that prevents the protein used by the virus from entering cells.
The man had also been undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ART) which is commonly used in HIV patients to make the virus undetectable while preventing patients from transmitting HIV to others. However, HIV remains in the patient during ART.
Stem cell transplant can “substantially reduce the viral reservoir” in cases where the virus persists, according to the study.
As he was undergoing ART treatment, doctors continued to monitor the patient’s viral reservoir. While his HIV was deemed undetectable, the man still had HIV reservoirs and continued to test for traces of the virus’s DNA and RNA. However, additional tests revealed that the virus had not replicated.
To test what would happen if the patient’s therapy ended, after 69 months, the medical team decided to stop his ART treatment in 2018. And since that time, he has remained HIV-free.
According to virologist Björn-Erik Jensen, who led the patient’s treatment, the study shows that while it is difficult to remove HIV from the body, it is not impossible.
It is unlikely, however, that this treatment will be used on HIV patients who do not have leukemia, according to Nature Medicine. However, scientists are testing what would happen if a patient’s stem cells were modified to include the mutation needed to block HIV.
The first patient declared “cured” of HIV was a man living in Berlin in 2008. Like the Düsseldorf patient, he too suffered from both leukemia and HIV.