A 66-year-old man in California has been cured of HIV after he received a stem cell donation for leukemia from a donor who was naturally resistant to the virus.
The patient is known as the “City of Hope” patient because he refused to be identified after he was cured, Reuters reported. The patient is the fourth known patient to be cured this way.
The patient was diagnosed with the disease in 1988 but managed to control it for more than 30 years with antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the International Aids Society, said that the cure was the “holy grail” and that the story gives “continued hope … and inspiration” for those battling the disease.
The report said that scientists believe that the treatment worked to cure the patient because the stem cell donor had a rare biogenetic makeup where they did not have the receptors needed to be infected by HIV.
Doctors said that they have found no signs of HIV in the man after he stopped antiretroviral therapy (ART) more than a year ago.
“He saw many of his friends and loved ones become ill and ultimately succumb to the disease and had experienced some stigma associated with having HIV,” said Jana Dickter, an infectious disease doctor who treated the patient. His success “opens up the opportunity potentially for older patients to undergo this procedure and go into remission from both their blood cancer and HIV.”
A woman in Spain in her 70s, who was diagnosed at 59, also has showed promising signs of potentially beating the virus after she stopped antiretroviral therapy (ART) more than a decade ago.
The woman quickly received antiretroviral drugs for nine months after becoming infected with the disease, as well as other treatments to boost her body’s immune system, The Wall Street Journal reported. Researchers discovered that she has been able to keep the virus under control because her body “has high levels of two types of immune cells that the virus normally suppresses and that probably help control viral replication.”
Steven Deeks, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco who leads research for an HIV cure, said that new advances in medical technology could soon lead to cures for the disease that can be widely distributed.
“There are fancy new gene editing methods emerging that might one day be able to achieve a similar outcome with a shot in the arm,” he said.