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Man believed to be cured of HIV after stem cell transplant

HIV-Stalled Progress
Posted at 4:01 PM, Feb 23, 2023

A man only known as the ‘Düsseldorf patient’ appears to be one of just a handful of patients cured of HIV.

According to an article published in the medical journal "Nature," the 53-year-old patient was declared clear of the virus a decade after a procedure that replaced his bone marrow cells with HIV-resistant stem cells acquired from a donor.

The man reportedly had HIV when he was diagnosed with myeloid leukemia. Doctors at the Düsseldorf University Hospital in Germany performed a stem cell transplant where they destroyed the cancerous bone marrow cells and replaced them with cells that have a gene mutation resistant to the virus.

In the years following, doctors said they continued to find immune cells that reacted to HIV, suggesting that the virus was still in his body. However, they still weren't sure whether the virus was active or dormant.

To learn more about the man's condition, his situation was replicated in mice and studies show the cells didn't replicate.

According to the study, the man was taken off antiretroviral therapy, which lowers HIV levels, in 2018. It was the final test to see if the cell would replicate. Five years later, the patient has remained free of HIV.

Virologist Björn-Erik Jensen said in Nature this patient proves it's very difficult to remove HIV from the body, but that doesn't mean treatments can't stop it from replicating.