A woman from the United States is thought to be the third person to be cure of HIV in the world.
The patient had a stem cell transplant from someone who had established natural resistance to HIV infection while being treated for leukemia.
The woman has been free of the virus for the past 14 months.
Doctors, on the other hand, contend that the transplant procedure, which uses umbilical cord blood, is too risky for most HIV patients.
On Tuesday, the patient’s case was presented at a medical conference in Denver, and it’s thought to be the first time this treatment has been used as a functional cure for HIV.
As part of her cancer treatment, the woman received an umbilical cord blood transfusion, and she has not needed antiretroviral medicine to manage HIV since.
The case was part of a larger study of HIV-positive persons who had received the same type of blood transfusion to treat cancer and other serious illnesses in the United States.
The chosen transplanted cells have a specific genetic mutation that prevents them from being infected by the HIV virus.
As a result, experts expect recipients’ immune systems to develop HIV resistance.
All HIV cure stories are remarkable and inspiring because they show that it is achievable.
This strategy, on the other hand, does not bring us any closer to discovering a cure for the 37 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa who are infected with HIV.
In 2007, Timothy Ray Brown, the first person to be “cured” of HIV, demonstrated stem cell transplantation’s promise. He obtained an organ transplant from a natural HIV-free donor.
The achievement has only been repeated twice since then, once with Adam Castillejo and recently with the New York patient.
All three were diagnosed with cancer and required a stem cell transplant to live. Curing their HIV was never the main goal, and the therapy is too dangerous to use on all HIV patients.
Remember that antiretroviral medication extends the life expectancy of HIV patients to near-normal levels.
The major hopes for a cure remain vaccines or drugs that can flush the virus out of the body.
The woman’s treatment employed umbilical cord blood, unlike the two previous cases when patients received adult stem cells as part of bone marrow transplants.
Adult stem cells were formerly used, but umbilical cord blood is more readily available and requires less of a match between donor and receiver.
Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the International Aids Society, stressed that the transplant procedure used in this case would not be a viable option for most HIV patients.
The example, she continued, “confirms that an HIV cure is attainable and reinforces the rationale for gene therapy as a realistic option for an HIV cure.”
There is still a vacuum in scientific understanding because the findings of this most recent case study have yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.