A woman appears to have been cured of HIV for the first time ever, in a breakthrough in the fight against the virus.
The New York Times reported that the method used, which involves a stem cell transplant, could lead to more racially diverse people being cured of the virus in the future. Two men have previously been cured of HIV after receiving stem cell treatment for leukaemia. They are known as the Berlin patient and the London patient.
She firstly received cord blood from a donor with a HIV-blocking mutation, then the blood from her relative supported her immune system during the six weeks it took for the cord blood cells to become dominant.
The usual practice is to find a bone marrow donor whose race and ethnicity is similar to that of the patient, however cord blood does not have to be as closely matched to the patient as bone marrow transplants, meaning it may be easier to find a donor.
@gaygenda First woman to be cured of HIV, scientist claim 🔬🧬 #gaynews #hiv #aids ♬ original sound – GAYGENDA MAGAZINE
The woman also received blood from a relative to temporarily boost her body’s immune system as the transplant settled. Weill Cornell Medicine infectious diseases expert Dr Marshall Glesby said: “The transplant from the relative is like a bridge that got her through to the point of the cord blood being able to take over.”
“The fact that she’s mixed-race, and that she’s a woman, that is really important scientifically and really important in terms of the community impact,” Dr Steven Deeks, University of California, San Francisco AIDS expert, said.
Update: Over 14 months after she ended her use of antiretroviral therapy following the procedure, doctors found there is still no trace of HIV in her blood.
Professor Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the International AIDS Society warned that bone marrow transplants are not a “viable large-scale strategy for curing HIV”, however the case “does present a proof of concept that HIV can be cured”, aidsmap reported.