Researchers today (Tuesday, Feb. 15) announced that a U.S. woman has been cured of HIV after receiving a stem cell transplant from a donor who was naturally resistant to the human immunodeficiency virus, according to a report by Julie Steenhuysen with Reuters.
The woman, described as being middle-aged and of mixed race, is the third person and the first woman to be cured of HIV. Her case, the first involving umbilical cord blood, a newer approach that could make this treatment available to more people, was presented by researchers at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Denver.
Steenhuysen’s report notes that the woman received the stem cell transplant as a treatment for acute myeloid leukemia. She has now been in remission and free of HIV for 14 months without the need for antiretroviral therapy.
The two other patients — a white man and a Latino man — were cured of HIV after receiving adult stem cells, which are more frequently used in bone marrow transplants.
Patients in the trial in which the woman was participating first go through chemotherapy to kill off cancerous immune cells. “Doctors then transplant stem cells from individuals with a specific genetic mutation in which they lack receptors used by the virus to infect cells,” Steenhuysen’s article notes. “Scientists believe these individuals then develop an immune system resistant to HIV.”
Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the International AIDS Society, said that while bone marrow transplants are not a viable strategy to cure most people with HIV, but this case “confirms that a cure for HIV is possible and further strengthens using gene therapy as a viable strategy for an HIV cure.”