A 53-year-old European man has been declared cured of HIV by an international team of researchers, UMC Utrecht reports. The HIV disappeared after the patient had a stem cell transplant for leukemia, blood cancer.
The man received the stem cell transplant almost ten years ago and has been living in good health for four years now without any treatment for HIV. UMC Utrecht researcher Anne Wensing previously mentioned him as one of the virus-free HIV patients, but he has been followed for such a long time now that the researchers can say with great certainty that he has really been cured of the virus. The case has now been published in the Nature Medicine journal.
The patient participated in the UMC Utrecht-led program IciStem. This European cooperation program researches patients with HIV who need a stem cell transplant for a condition like leukemia. To also tackle the HIV during the stem cell treatment, the researchers used cells from a donor with a genetic mutation. The donor’s stem cells lack an attachment site for HIV, which offers protection against the virus. The mutilation mainly occurs in white people from Central and Northern Europe.
The patient is receiving treatment at a hospital in Dusseldorf and is therefore referred to as the “Dusseldorf patient.” He is the third European officially cured of HIV after a stem cell transplant. The “Berlin patient” and “London patient” preceded him.
Stem cell transplantation can only be done as part of the treatment of a life-threatening disease like leukemia, the researchers said. It entails significant risks. The scientists hope that the knowledge gained through the Dusseldorf patient will provide further starting points for HIV studies so less extreme cures can be found in the future.
Last year scientists announced that a patient in America seemed to be cured of the virus. Where the three European patients received a bone marrow transplant, the American woman was treated with umbilical cord blood. At the time, Wensing called that apparent success good news, especially for patients of color. Umbilical cord blood transplants need less similarity between donor and patient. That increases the chance that people of color can benefit from the treatment.
Reporting by ANP