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The oldest patient to date has been cured of HIV after receiving a stem cell transplant for leukemia, researchers reported on Wednesday.
While the transplant was planned to treat the 66-year-old’s leukemia, doctors also searched for a donor who was naturally resistant to the virus that causes AIDS, a mechanism that first worked to cure ‘Berlin patient’ Timothy Ray Brown. , in 2007.
The latest patient, the fourth to be cured in this way, is known as the “City of Hope” patient after the US facility in Duarte, California, where he was treated, as he does not want to be identified.
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As well as being the oldest, the patient also had HIV the longest, having been diagnosed in 1988 with what he described as a “death sentence” that killed many of his friends.
He has been on antiretroviral therapy (ART) to control his condition for over 30 years.
Doctors who presented the data ahead of the 2022 meeting of the International Aids Society (IAS) said the case opens up the possibility for elderly HIV and blood cancer patients to access treatment, especially since the donor was not a family member.
Describing a cure as the “holy grail”, Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the IAS, said the case provided “continuing hope and inspiration” to people living with HIV and the wider scientific community, although it was unlikely to be an option for most people living with HIV due to the risks of the procedure.
Scientists believe the process works because the donor stem cells have a specific, rare genetic mutation, which means they lack the receptors used by HIV to infect cells.
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After the transplant three and a half years ago, which followed chemotherapy, the City of Hope patient stopped taking ART in March 2021. He has now been in remission from HIV and leukemia for more than a year. year, the team said.
On Wednesday, Spanish researchers also presented details of a 59-year-old woman who is part of a rare group of so-called “post-treatment controllers”. They can maintain undetectable viral loads after stopping ART and also provide clues to a potential cure, Lewin said.