Are we on the brink of a monumental medical breakthrough?
The human immunodeficiency virus, often abbreviated simply as HIV, has been a global cause of concern in terms of sexually transmitted diseases since the lentivirus first peaked in the early 1980s. The past four decades have been spent trying to find a cure, and it’s looking like we’ve never been closer to one than right now.
A 66-year-old man who had been living with HIV since 1988, in addition to also having cancer, was virtually cured of both following an experimental stem cell transplant from a donor with leukemia.
The game-changing discovery was revealed during the recent International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada (seen above). The patient received his life-changing treatment at the City Of Hope clinic in Duarte, California, making him the latest patient globally and oldest to go into long-term HIV remission without antiretroviral therapy. According to ABC News, he hadn’t received ART for over a year after receiving stem cells from a donor with a rare genetic mutation.
More on this medical miracle below, via ABC News:
“According to City of Hope, the patient received a chemotherapy-based, reduced-intensity transplant regimen prior to his stem cell transplant. ‘Reduced-intensity chemotherapy makes the transplant more tolerable for older patients and reduces the potential for transplant-related complications from the procedure,’ the organization said in the release.
The patient received a blood stem cell transplant at City of Hope in early 2019 for acute myelogenous leukemia from an unrelated donor who has a rare genetic mutation, homozygous CCR5 Delta 32, City of Hope said. That mutation makes people who have it resistant to acquiring certain strains of HIV.
CCR5 is a receptor on CD4+ immune cells, and HIV uses that receptor to enter and attack the immune system. But the CCR5 mutation blocks that pathway, which stops HIV from entering the cells and therefore replicating.
The City of Hope patient has not shown any evidence of having replicating HIV virus since the transplant, the organization said.”
Unfortunately this isn’t a jump for joy on a wider scale, as medical experts say the procedure isn’t practical for an actual HIV cure. The famed Dr. Anthony Fauci states, “It is not practical to think that this is something that’s going to be widely available,” also adding, “It’s more of a proof of concept.”
Bone marrow transplants prove to be both highly toxic and potentially fatal, and are considered to be “unethical” treatment for those living with HIV unless they’re doing it as part of cancer treatment. In short, it seems you have to be even sicker in order for the “cure” to work.
As we know, HIV is no longer a death sentence and in some cases have developed into undetectable status, which prevents the disease from passing along to a HIV negative partner. Still, if we can get rid of HIV completely instead of putting a really good band-aid on the issue, that would obviously be the most ideal situation.
Fingers crossed for the future!
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