After receiving a bone marrow transplant from a donor who was genetically resistant to HIV, a 66-year-old man living with HIV since the 1980s has been found cured in the fourth such case, according to doctors.
The man has been called ‘City of Hope’ after the name of the treatment centre in California where he was being treated.
The patient, who wishes to maintain anonymity, was taking treatment for blood cancer when the transplant happened.
“The patient received the transplant nearly 3 1/2 years ago at City of Hope. The man lived with HIV for over 31 years, the longest of any of the three previous patients with HIV who have gone into remission after receiving a stem cell transplant for a blood cancer and HIV. At 63 years old at the time of his transplant, he is also the oldest patient with HIV and blood cancer to undergo a transplant and achieve remission from both conditions,” the medical facility said.
“Following the development of a form of leukemia more prevalent in those with HIV later in life — acute myelogenous leukemia — the man received the life-saving stem cell transplant in early 2019 from a volunteer stem cell donor who had a rare genetic mutation, the homozygous CCR5 delta 32 mutation, that makes people resistant to most strains of HIV infection. CCR5 is a receptor on CD4+ immune cells, and HIV uses that receptor to enter and attack the immune system. But the CCR5 mutation blocks that pathway, which stops HIV from replicating,” it added.
As per a BBC report, the patient has been in remission for 17 months now with no viral load detectable in his body.
The patient was being closely monitored after the transplant.
As per experts, the patient who was on antiretroviral therapy for over 30 years will longer need to take it.
The case was reported at the Aids 2022 Conference in Montreal, Canada.
The patient contracted the virus in 1988 when he thought it to be a “death sentence” at the time.
He said: “I never thought I would live to see the day that I no longer have HIV. I am beyond grateful.”
As per experts, the patient who had developed AIDS was also a part of antiretroviral therapy trials that allow million of people globally to live with the disease.
While the 66-year-old man is the oldest to get cured of the disease, but not the first.
As per reports, Timothy Ray Brown, known as the Berlin Patient, became the first person ever to be cured of HIV in 2011.
Another patient in 2019 was reported to have been cured of HIV.
A woman of mixed race became the third person in the world to be cured of HIV using a transplant method.
Currently, there are 38 million people infected with HIV globally.
Genetically Chosen ones
The virus that causes AIDS enters the body through white blood cells using a protein doorway called – CCR5.
In recent studies, it has been observed that a genetic mutation in some individuals in the protein CCR5-delta 32 is causing HIV resistance.
As per studies, the mutation causes the protein co-receptor on the outside of the cells to develop smaller than usual and no longer sit outside of the cell. Thus, locking the door through which HIV would find a way in the cell.
Such individuals may offer good resistance to HIV.
As per experts, bone marrow transplants are not going to revolutionise the treatment for HIV.
Doctors say the procedure is complex and involves potential side effects. Hence, cannot be used to treat all patients living with the virus.
Hope for tomorrow
With the emergence of the fourth such case, doctors and researchers globally have their hopes high for a revolution in finding a cure for HIV.
As per researchers, targeting the CCR5 doorway using gene therapy can emerge as a potential treatment.
HIV is a virus that causes the syndrome AIDS, which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome- where a body’s immune system is left critically damaged, leaving the person susceptible to mild illness which might cause serious sickness or even death.