His HIV Was Cured. That Makes Him No. 5

The 'Dusseldorf patient' was cured thanks to a stem cell transplant
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 21, 2023 2:15 AM CST
There Are Now 5 People on Earth Who Were Cured of HIV
3D illustration of the HIV virus.   (Getty Images / Artem_Egorov)

The "Dusseldorf patient," as a 53-year-old German man is being identified, has been confirmed as the fifth person to have been cured of HIV. "It’s really cure, and not just, you know, long-term remission," says Dr. Bjorn-Erik Ole Jensen, who detailed the case in Nature Medicine. Indeed, ABC News reports the man, who was diagnosed with HIV in 2008, ceased taking HIV medication four years ago and has no detectable virus in his body.

As in two of the other cases, his cure is tied to a stem cell transplant, reports the Hill. It's a risky procedure that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and was performed in the case of patients in Berlin and London to treat the patients' cancer. The Dusseldorf patient was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia in 2011 and had the transplant in 2013. In all three cases, the donors had a rare genetic mutation that blocks HIV infection. The Dusseldorf patient stopped antiretroviral therapy in 2018.

Study co-author Asier Saez-Cirion explained what the transplant facilitates, per the AFP: "The patient's immune cells are completely replaced by those of the donor, which makes it possible for the vast majority of the infected cells to disappear." The Hill notes that in the other two cases, the patients' immune systems eliminated the virus on their own, "a rare phenomenon that researchers have not yet been able to fully explain." (The first person cured of HIV died in 2020.)

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