Man in Germany Cured of HIV With Stem Cells

Lisa O'Mary

February 22, 2023

A 53-year-old man in Germany has been declared cured of HIV.

The man was treated in 2013 for acute myeloid leukemia using donor stem cells known to have an HIV-resistant mutation. Now 53 years old, he said he plans to get involved in fundraising for research.

Since the bone marrow transplant procedure, researchers found immune cells in the patient's body that reacted to HIV, as well as signs that the virus was no longer replicating. When the scientists transplanted the patient's cells into mice, the virus failed to replicate. As a final test to see if he was cured, the patient stopped taking the HIV treatment known as ART (antiretroviral therapy), which suppresses HIV replication, in 2018.

"It shows it's not impossible — it's just very difficult — to remove HIV from the body," Björn-Erik Jensen, MD, one of the patient's doctors, told the journal Nature, which published the findings on Tuesday.

The patient is at least the third person to be declared cured of HIV, Nature reported. Declaring someone cured happens once it is determined that the virus is no longer replicating or being stored in the body. The German man — or the "Dusseldorf patient" as he's now being called — may be the fifth person cured, according to ABC News.

But the treatment that cured him is unlikely to be offered to HIV patients who do not have leukemia, which is a cancer that affects the parts of the body that make blood, such as bone marrow. That's because of the high risks with the procedure, Nature reported. But researchers are looking at whether HIV patients' own bone marrow can be genetically changed to have the same mutation that was present in the Dusseldorf patient's transplant.

More than 38 million people worldwide are living with HIV, which is a virus that attacks the body's immune system by destroying white blood cells, thereby increasing the risk for other infections. Recently, promising vaccine trials for HIV were canceled because the experimental treatments were not effective.

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