Woman With HIV Cured of Virus Without Stem Cell Treatment in Extremely Rare Case

Researchers say they’ve found an HIV patient who—eight years after she was first diagnosed—no longer shows signs of an infection despite no stem cell treatment.

HIV test station in Township

Photo by Hoberman Collection/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

HIV test station in Township

Researchers say they’ve found an HIV patient who—eight years after she was first diagnosed—no longer shows signs of an active infection despite receiving no regular stem cell treatment, CNN reports. 

The 30-year-old woman is being called an “elite controller” of the virus, marking the second time a rare case like this has been discovered.  The report in the Annals of Internal Medicine claims that the patient from Argentina may have naturally achieved a “sterilizing cure” for HIV.

The last patient to do this without help from stem cell transplantation or other treatment was 67-year-old Loreen Willenberg. 

“A sterilizing cure for HIV has previously only been observed in two patients who received a highly toxic bone marrow transplant. Our study shows that such a cure can also be reached during natural infection – in the absence of bone marrow transplants (or any type of treatment at all),” the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital’s Dr. Xu Yu told CNN. “Examples of such a cure that develops naturally suggest that current efforts to find a cure for HIV infection are not elusive, and that the prospects of getting to an ‘AIDS-free generation’ may ultimately be successful.”

The patient’s blood samples from 2017 and 2020 were analyzed after she was first diagnosed in March 2013. She didn’t start antiretroviral treatment until she became pregnant in 2019.

After analysis, researchers reportedly found “no intact virus that was capable of replicating.” Yu, of MIT and Harvard, said researchers think this happened as a result of “a combination of different immune mechanisms – cytotoxic T cells are likely involved, innate immune mechanism may also have contributed.”

Yu told STATS that the finding gives “hope that the human immune system is powerful enough to control HIV and eliminate all the functional virus.”

As CNN shares, 38 million people around the world are currently living with HIV, and if untreated, it can lead to AIDS, which 690,000 people died in relation to last year. 

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