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Researchers say fifth person was cured of HIV

With a confirmed cure from the lifelong infection, the "Dusseldorf patient" joins a small group of individuals who were once HIV-positive.
Credit: AP
FILE - This colorized electron microscope image made available by the U.S. National Institutes of Health shows a human T cell, indicated in blue, under attack by HIV, in yellow, the virus that causes AIDS. In a study released in the journal Nature on Thursday, April 28, 2022, climate change will result in thousands of new viruses spread among animal species by 2070, which is likely to increase the risk of emerging infectious diseases jumping from animals to humans. (Seth Pincus, Elizabeth Fischer, Austin Athman/National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/NIH via AP)

WASHINGTON — A 53-year-old man in Germany officially became the fifth person to be cured of HIV, researchers announced Monday.

The man, who is referred to as the "Dusseldorf patient" for privacy concerns, is the latest confirmed case of an HIV cure. Details of his treatment were first announced in 2019, but researchers lacked confidence in asserting he had been officially cured at the time. 

On Monday, researchers published details of the "Dusseldorf patient" in the publication Nature Medicine. Ten years after his stem cell transplant and four years after the 53-year-old man stopped taking HIV medication, he had no detectable virus in his body. 

"It’s really cure, and not just, you know, long term remission," the patient's physician Dr. Bjorn-Erik Ole Jensen told ABC News. "This obviously positive symbol makes hope, but there's a lot of work to do."

About 38.4 million people in the world live with HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, according to HIV.gov. With a confirmed cure from the lifelong infection, the "Dusseldorf patient" joins a small group of individuals who were once HIV-positive.  

In 2022, U.S. researchers announced the fourth possibly cured person and first woman to be in remission of HIV. The unidentified woman from New York who had leukemia received a stem cell transplant, the same procedure the "Dusseldorf patient" underwent.

Stem cells are a type of cell that have not yet differentiated into other cells, such as neurons in the brain or T-cells used to fight infection. They are the first cells to develop post-conception and can also be found in umbilical cord blood.  

Stem cell transplants are an extremely high-risk procedure that replaces a person's immune system and is usually performed on cancer patients who have no other options, ABC News reports. 

Most of the cured patients had undergone stem cell transplants for their cancer treatments.

Timothy Ray Brown, known better as "the Berlin patient," was the first person who researchers said had potentially been cured of HIV in 2008 after doctors performed a stem cell transplant from a donor who had natural immunity against HIV. Brown succumbed to his leukemia in 2020.

The second person to be effectively cured of HIV is Adam Castillejo, known as the "London patient."  

“I think we can get a lot of insights from this patient and from these similar cases of HIV cure," Jensen told ABC News. "These insights give us some hints where we could go to make the strategy safer."


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