A patient with leukemia in the US has become the first woman in the world to be cured of HIV. The successful treatment was reported at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunisitic Infections in Denver, Colorado, on Tuesday, 15 February.
This is only the third successful treatment of HIV in the world, and was done with a stem cell transplant taken from the umbilical cord blood of a patient who was naturally resistant to HIV.
The stem cell transplant led to the patient entering remission and being free of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus(HIV) without needing HIV treatments AKA antiretroviral therapy for 14 months.
A Cure For HIV - A Historic First
This is the third case of a patient being treated with this procedure, and the first case of a woman with HIV being cured.
The first two cases were in men who had received adult stem cells which are often used in bone marrow transplants.
According to Reuters, the case is a part of a US study led by Dr Yvonne Bryson of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and Dr Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
The study follows 25 people with HIV who received stem cell transplants from umbilical cord blood to treat cancer and other malignant conditions.
How Is It Done?
Patients are first subjected to chemotherapy treatment to kill the cancer-causing immune cells. They then receive a transplant of stem cells from people who possess a specific genetic mutation which makes them lack the receptors that HIV uses to infect cells.
This transplant leads to the patients developing an immune system that's actually RESISTANT to the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).
"This confirms that a cure for HIV is possible and strengthens the case for using gene therapy as a viable means to create an HIV cure."Sharon Lewin, President-Elect, International Aids Society
Sharon Lewin, president elect of the International Aids Society told Reuters that while bone marrow transplants aren't a viable strategy to cure most people living with HIV, a cure for HIV is possible.
The success stories, as per the study, point to two key elements of the treatment - the first being the killing of cancer-cells through chemotherapy, and the second, the transplant of HIV-resistant cells from people with a natural immunity to HIV.
Interestingly, it's a side effect of the stem cell transplant procedure that is believed to hold the cure. Scientists state that 'graft-versus-host' disease, in which a donor's immune cells attack a recipient's immune system, may hold the key to a cure for HIV.
"The three cases can help identify the components of the stem cell transplant that hold the cure to the virus."Sharon Lewin, President-Elect, International Aids Society
If successfully developed, this will be the first ever cure for HIV, and would revolutionize HIV treatment across the world.
Watch our video with Dr Ravindra Gupta, the man behind the second HIV cure of the 'London Patient'.
(With input from Reuters.)