Man cured of HIV at ‘holy grail’ moment for medical researchers: report

A 66-year-old man in California has been cured of HIV after receiving a donation of stem cells for leukemia from a donor naturally resistant to the virus.

The patient is known as the “City of Hope” patient because he declined to be identified after his recovery, 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 the cure was the “holy grail” and the story gives “continuing hope…and inspiration” to those battling the disease.

The report says scientists believe the treatment succeeded in curing the patient because the stem cell donor had a rare biogenetic makeup where he lacked the necessary receptors to become infected with HIV.

Doctors said they found no signs of HIV in the man after antiretroviral therapy (ART) was stopped more than a year ago.

“He saw many of his friends and loved ones fall ill and eventually succumb to the disease and had experienced some stigma associated with HIV,” said Jana Dickter, an infectious disease doctor who treated the patient. Its success “opens up the possibility for older patients to undergo this procedure and go into remission from both their blood cancer and HIV.”

A woman in Spain in her 60s, who was diagnosed at 59, has also shown promising signs of potentially beating the virus after stopping antiretroviral therapy (ART) more than a decade ago.

The woman was promptly given antiretroviral drugs for nine months after being infected with the disease, along with other treatments to boost her body’s immune system, The Wall Street Journal reported. Researchers found she was able to control the virus because her body “has high levels of two types of immune cells that the virus normally suppresses and which likely help control viral replication.”

Steven Deeks, a professor at the University of California, San Francisco who is leading the search for a cure for HIV, said new advances in medical technology could soon lead to cures for the disease that could be made widely available.

“There are sophisticated new gene-editing methods that might one day be able to achieve a similar result with a shot in the arm,” he said.

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