Discovering a possible cure for AIDS

11:00 p.m

Tuesday 02 August 2022

A 66-year-old man who has been infected with HIV since the 1980s underwent a bone marrow transplant to treat leukemia from a donor with natural resistance to the virus, after which doctors reported the possibility that he had been cured of the virus, making him the fourth case of recovery from the disease.

According to the BBC Arabic website, the man, who refused to reveal his identity, was stopped from taking the drug that treats AIDS.

The man said that his happiness is indescribable for the disappearance of the virus from his body, and the man is known as the “City of Hope” patient after the name of the hospital where he was treated in Duarte, California, in the United States. Acquired immunodeficiency, which gives people a normal life expectancy. The acquired immunodeficiency virus (HIV) destroys the body’s immune system, and this can lead to AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, and the body struggles to fight infection.

In a statement, the man said: “When I was diagnosed with HIV in 1988, like many, I thought it was like a death sentence. I never imagined I would live to see that day.”

The patient did not take medications to treat acquired immunodeficiency after he contracted leukemia at the age of 63. The medical team decided that he needed a bone marrow transplant to replace the cancerous blood cells. By chance, the donor was HIV-resistant.

The virus enters white blood cells using a microscopic entrance by a protein called CCR5

But some people, including the donor, have mutations in CCR5 that close the door and keep HIV at bay.

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The City of Hope patient was closely monitored after the transplant, and HIV levels became undetectable in his body.

“We were so excited to tell him that his body no longer had HIV and that he no longer needed the anti-retrovirals he had been taking for the past 30 years,” says Dr. Jana Decter, an immunologist at City of Hope Hospital.

The first time something similar happened was in 2011 when Timothy Brown – known as the Berlin Patient – became the first person in the world to be cured of AIDS. There have been three similar cases in the past three years.

Read also: Symptoms of HIV infection – do they differ according to the stage of the disease?

The City of Hope patient is the oldest patient to be treated in this way and is the patient who has lived with HIV for the longest time. However, bone marrow transplants will not revolutionize HIV treatment for the 38 million people in the world who currently have it.

“It’s a complex procedure with potentially significant side effects,” says Dr. Dikter. “So it’s not an ideal option for most people living with HIV.”

Researchers are working on ways to target CCR5 via genes as a potential treatment.

The case was reported at the AIDS 2022 conference in Montreal, Canada. Commenting on the findings, Professor Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the International AIDS Society, said: “Treatment remains the ultimate goal of HIV research.”

She said there had been “a handful of individual cures before” that had provided “continuing hope for people living with HIV, and an inspiration to the scientific community”.

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