The oldest patient to date has been cured of HIV after undergoing a stem cell transplant for leukemia, researchers reported on Wednesday.
While the transplant was planned to treat the now 66-year-old’s leukemia, doctors also sought a donor that is naturally resistant to the virus that causes AIDS, a mechanism that initially worked for the “Berlin patient”, Timothy Ray Brown, in 2007.
The last patient, the fourth to be treated in this way, is known as the “City of Hope” patient after the US facility in Duarte, California, where he was treated, as he did not want to be identified.
In addition to being the oldest, the patient also had the longest HIV infection, having been diagnosed in 1988 with what he described as a “death sentence” that killed many of his friends.
He has been on antiretroviral therapy (ART) for more than 30 years.
Doctors who provided the data before the 2022 International AIDS Society (IAS) meeting said the case opened up older patients with HIV and leukemia to access treatment, especially since the donor was not a family member.
Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the International Science Association, called the treatment the “holy grail,” saying the condition provides “continuing hope… and inspiration” for people living with HIV and the broader scientific community, although it’s unlikely to be an option for most People with HIV because of the risks of the procedure.
Scientists believe the process works because the donated individual’s stem cells are a specific and rare genetic mutation which means they lack the receptors that HIV uses to infect the cells.
After the transplant three-and-a-half years ago, which followed chemotherapy, the City of Hope patient stopped taking antiretroviral therapy in March 2021. The team said he has now been in recovery from HIV and leukemia for more than a year.
On Wednesday, researchers in Spain also provided details of a 59-year-old woman who is one of a rare group of so-called “post-treatment controllers”. Lewin said they could maintain undetectable viral loads after stopping antiretroviral therapy, as well as provide clues for a potential treatment.
Ahead of the IAS conference that begins Friday, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) also presented data showing how the COVID-19 pandemic has hampered global efforts to tackle HIV, including reversing progress in more The world’s most populous country. Region and Asia Pacific.