Researchers are announcing that a 53-year-old man in Germany has been cured of HIV.
Referred to as "the Dusseldorf patient" to protect his privacy, researchers said he is the fifth confirmed case of an HIV cure. Although the details of his successful treatment were first announced at a conference in 2019, researchers could not confirm he had been officially cured at that time.
Today, researchers announced the Dusseldorf patient still has no detectable virus in his body, even after stopping his HIV medication four years ago."It’s really cure, and not just, you know, long term remission," said Dr. Bjorn-Erik Ole Jensen, who presented details of the case in a new publication in "Nature Medicine."
"This obviously positive symbol makes hope, but there's a lot of work to do," Jensen said
For most people, HIV is a lifelong infection, and the virus is never fully eradicated. Thanks to modern medication, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives.
The Dusseldorf patient joins a small group of people who have been cured under extreme circumstances after a stem cell transplant, typically only performed in cancer patients who don’t have any other options. A stem cell transplant is a high-risk procedure that effectively replaces a person's immune system. The primary goal is to cure someone's cancer, but the procedure has also led to an HIV cure in a handful of cases.
HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, enters and destroys the cells of the immune system. Without treatment, the continued damage can lead to AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, where a person cannot fight even a small infection.
With about 38.4 million people globally living with HIV, treatments have come a long way. Modern medication can keep the virus at bay, and studies looking into preventing HIV infection with a vaccine are also underway.
The first person with HIV cure was Timothy Ray Brown. Researchers published his case as the Berlin patient in 2009. That was followed by the London patient published in 2019. Most recently, The City of Hope and New York patients were published in 2022.
This incredible breakthrough gives us all hope that we can find a cure for HIV in the future. The news of Adam Castillejo's cure should reignite the momentum for finding a cure for HIV, and should serve as an inspiration to us all. Research and new treatments are making life-changing progress, and it is up to us to keep this momentum going.