For the very first time, a woman has just been declared “cured” of the HIV virus. He is only the third person in history to have been able to get rid of the virus which has already infected millions of people around the world. According to the scientists, the case of the woman, who is originally from New York, represents a breakthrough in the field since a completely new method was used. The patient was also demographically different from previous patients who went through similar treatment to fight the virus.
According to Steven Deeks, an AIDS expert from the University of California, who is not involved in the study, the fact that the patient is of mixed race, and that she is a woman, is very important scientifically, but also in terms of impact on the community.
According to the knowledge that specialists have of HIV, the virus would evolve differently in women compared to men.
A new technique
The New York patient who has just been cured of HIV has followed a new treatment which has just shown its effectiveness, at least for her case. The woman had been diagnosed as HIV-positive in 2013 and received the treatment in question in 2017. It involved transplanting “cord blood” which consists of stem cells collected from the blood present in the umbilical cord and the placenta.
This new technique was developed by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York. According to the information, it could also be considered as an option to treat cancer.
According to scientists, stem cells from cord blood are much easier to obtain than cells taken from the bone marrow. It is also easier to find matches.
Note that the two previous patients who were cured of HIV were both men and they had been treated with bone marrow. The grafts came from donors with a mutation that blocks HIV. However, it is a much more invasive and risky procedure.
A promising treatment
The two men previously cured of HIV were a German who lived without the virus for 12 years, and then Adam Castillejo, a Briton who received a bone marrow transplant in 2016.
These two men both suffered from significant side effects. The patient who received the cord blood was able to leave the hospital after only 17 days. Doctors say it may have been partly due to the blood transfusion she received from a relative to boost her immune system.
While this may be a revolutionary new treatment, some experts disagree with calling the patient’s case a “cure.” According to Yvonne Bryson, a specialist in pediatric infectious diseases at UCLA, it would be safer to call the patient’s case a “remission”.
In any case, in the face of a virus that continues to make millions of people suffer, even minimal progress represents an important step forward.