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Is HIV curable through transplant?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, leaving it vulnerable to infections and other illnesses. Over time, they cause acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), a condition in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive.

Without treatment, the reported average survival time after infection with HIV is estimated to be 9 to 11 years, depending on the HIV subtype, and the living condition of the person(s).

On 20 February 2023, Nature Medicine, reported HIV-1 cured in a 53-year-old male who was carefully monitored for more than 9 years. Human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) persists in the body during antiretroviral therapy (ART) in latently infected cells, but allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) has been shown to substantially reduce the viral reservoir.

This cure for HIV is still in its trial phase and the 53-year-old male was enrolled in the IciStem program as patient no.19, at University Hospital of Düsseldorf, Germany. The report by Nat. Med. re-emphasizes that despite scientific evidence originating from two patients published to date that hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) can cure human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1), the knowledge of immunological and virological correlates of cure is limited. This is basically hinting at the fact that a refined cure is not available yet.

According to the World Health Organization, since the beginning of the virus over 80 million people have been infected with HIV and about 40 million people have died of it. While the 53-year-old male is around the 5th person to be cured of the virus, this is certainly an improvement in science and the coming years can only be better.

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