A third person is cured of HIV using stem cells

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, is getting closer to finding its definitive cure. A third person around the world succeeded, using stem cells: she was treated at the University Hospital in Düsseldorf, Germany.

This virus, transmitted by sexual contact, by sharing needles, and from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding, attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV cannot be treated in time, it causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS.

The report on the third person cured was published this week in the journal Nature Medicine.

The key to healing the Düsseldorf patient

The person received a stem cell transplant that also treated his leukemia. He was diagnosed with HIV in 2008, and three years later, acute myeloid leukemia.

In 2013, he underwent a bone marrow transplant with stem cells, from a donor with a rare mutation in the CCR5 gene. According to the DW, this gene prevented HIV from entering cells.

His antiretroviral therapy ended in 2018, and four years later no traces of HIV were found.

According to the German researchers, the virus’s failure to return is the result of thorough scientific and therapeutic preparation and monitoring. The study is the longest and most accurate diagnostic follow-up of a patient after a stem cell transplant.

A transplant, appointment skynews, destroys diseased blood cells and replaces them with healthy ones taken from the blood or bone marrow. Due to their high risk, they are only performed as part of the treatment of other life-threatening conditions.

HIV / AIDS, a fight that must be strengthened

“I still remember my family doctor’s phrase very well: ‘Don’t take it so personally. We will experience together that HIV can be cured,” the person said.

“At the time, I dismissed the statement as an alibi. Today, I am even more proud of my global team of doctors who managed to cure me of HIV and, at the same time, of course, leukemia.”

The Düsseldorf patient joins two others: one from Berlin and one from London. The one in Berlin was called Timothy Ray Brown, and he received the same treatment as the one in Düsseldorf: although he remained in remission from HIV, he died of leukemia in 2020.

The most recent figures from the UN they come from 2021. According to these, 38.4 million people lived with the virus; 650,000 died that year from AIDS-related illnesses.

“Sure we can end AIDS, but we must end the inequalities that perpetuate it. On this World AIDS Day (December 1) we need everyone to endorse the message that absolutely all people will benefit from the end of inequalities”, Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of UNAIDS, said at the time.

“So that we are all safe, to protect the health of all people… equality now.”

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