A 53-year-old German man, dubbed “the Dusseldorf patient” to protect his identity, has become the fifth confirmed person cured of HIV.
The details of the successful treatment were first revealed at a conference in 2019, but researchers couldn’t confirm at the time that the man was, in fact, cured. Today, after being off medication for more than four years, researchers confirm that the Dusseldorf patient has no detectable virus in his body.
“It’s really cure, and not just, you know, long term remission,” said Dr. Bjorn-Erik Ole Jensen in a statement. “This obviously positive symbol [gives us] hope, but there’s a lot of work to do.”
The Dusseldorf patient joins a small group of people who have been cured after a stem cell transplant, a high-risk procedure that effectively replaces a person’s entire immune system.
The first documented case of an HIV cure from “the Berlin patient” came in 2009, with the patient ultimately being identified as Timothy Ray Brown. “The London patient” followed in 2019, and 2022 saw “The City of Hope patient” and “The New York patient” find a cure.
“I think we can get a lot of insights from this patient and from these similar cases of HIV cure,” said Jensen. “These insights give us some hints where we could go to make the strategy safer.”
Dr. Todd Ellerin, director of infectious diseases at South Shore Health, said, “When you hear about these HIV cures, it’s obviously, you know, incredible, given how challenging it’s been. But, it still remains the exception to the rule.”
The exception shows that only 1 percent of the total population carries the genetic mutation necessary to make them resistant to HIV with the stem cell transplant.
Still, scientists remain hopeful, with Ellerin adding, “It is obviously a step forward in advancing the science and having a sort of understanding, in some ways, what it takes to cure HIV.”