Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi is being treated for a type of chronic leukaemia, hospital doctors in Milan have confirmed.
He was rushed to intensive care on Wednesday with breathing problems and doctors said he was suffering from a related lung infection.
A four-time prime minister and media mogul, Mr Berlusconi, 86, still leads his party and is an elected senator.
But he has had repeated health problems since he contracted Covid-19 in 2020.
Colleagues have expressed hope that he will still be able to return to front-line politics as he continues to lead Forza Italia, a centre-right junior partner in Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s coalition.
“We want to be optimistic,” said Antonio Tajani, Italy’s foreign minister and one of the most senior figures in Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party.
As Italians waited for more details, the billionaire media tycoon’s younger brother, Paolo, told reporters the family was now feeling confident: “We’re more relieved, there’s an improvement.”
Mr Berlusconi has combined politics with a business career at the helm of a media empire. He last served as prime minister in 2011, although his latter years in power became overshadowed by sex and corruption scandals.
He was elected to Italy’s upper house, the Senate, last September but has repeatedly required hospital treatment. He returned to hospital in Milan on Wednesday only six days after he was discharged following days of check-ups.
His personal doctor, Alberto Zangrillo, said his lung infection was related to a chronic blood condition that he had borne for some time but that it had not yet become acute. Earlier reports said he had begun chemotherapy to fight the leukaemia.
“He’s stable. He’s a rock. he’s going to make this time too.” said his younger brother Paolo Berlusconi earlier.
His return to hospital has caused concern in Italy and politicians from across the spectrum have wished him well. Ms Meloni has wished him a speedy recovery, tweeting the words “Forza Silvio” – “Come on Silvio!”, echoing the name of his political party.
His fiancée Marta Fascina, who is an MP in his party, spent the night with him in the hospital and his children visited him on Thursday for a second time.
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