A 66-year-old man in the U.S. has become the fifth person cured of HIV in the world and the oldest person cured so far.
The man, who’s being called the “City of Hope patient,” was cured with a stem cell transplant that was used to treat his blood cancer. The technique has been used to cure four other people in the past two decades.
Experts say that this is not a viable treatment for the vast majority of people living with HIV. The procedure requires bone marrow from a small group of people with a specific mutated form of the CCR5 protein. Bone marrow transplants are also potentially fatal.
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Still, researchers said that the treatment can help further understanding of how the virus functions.
“While a transplant is not an option for most people with HIV, these cases are still interesting, still inspiring and illuminate the search for a cure,” University of Melbourne infectious disease specialist Dr. Sharon Lewin said during a press call.
The City of Hope patient was diagnosed with HIV in 1988 and is the person who has been living with HIV the longest to receive the treatment. He was at one pointed diagnosed with AIDS before he started taking some of the earliest antiretroviral medications in the 1990s.
In 2018, he was diagnosed with blood cancer and he received the bone marrow transplant to treat that cancer, as well as chemotherapy. He has been off antiretroviral medications for 17 months.
“We monitored him very closely, and to date we cannot find any evidence of HIV replicating in his system,” said associate clinical professor at City of Hope Medical Center in Duarte, California Dr. Jana Dickter.
Fifteen years ago, Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the Berlin patient, became the first person cured of HIV. He had leukemia and received a bone marrow transplant from someone with the CCR5 protein mutation.
There were around 22,000 people worldwide known to have the CCR5 mutation that makes their white blood cells immune to HIV in 2019.