A New York man whose white blood cells resisted infection when exposed to HIV due to a rare genetic defect committed suicide late last month.
Stephen Crohn, known as “The Man Who Can't Catch AIDS,” just couldn’t deal with seeing all of his friends succumb to the disease that he was immune to. He was 66, The Daily News reported.
“My brother saw all of his friends dying, and he didn’t die,” said Amy Crohn, Stephen’s sister. “He went through a tremendous amount of survivor guilt about that and said to himself, ‘There's got to be a reason.’ He was quite extraordinary, and then also quite ordinary.”
Stephen worked with doctors to help determine why he couldn’t get sick. “What he contributed to medical knowledge is really quite extraordinary,” said Dr. Bruce Walker, the director of the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, M.I.T. and Harvard. “This is a classic case of medical science learning from patients. Most of the immunology we know comes from studying other animal models. We need to study humans who have real diseases.”
He explained, “You take the extreme examples and try to see how those people are different from the average person with the disease.”
Due to his rare condition, Stephen was the topic of many documentary films and newspaper articles. During a documentary that aired on PBS, he explained why he was immune to AIDS. “It’s like a key — the virus comes with this,” he said. “It’s looking for a two-holed keyhole. I don’t have one of the holes. Period. It’s never going to attach to me.”