- A 30 year old woman from Argentina has been cured of the deadly HIV AIDS
- The woman was diagnosed with the virus which causes AIDS back in 2013
- At least 2 other HIV patients have been deemed cured
- Close to 8 crore people around the globe are infected with HIV
All signs of HIV disappeared from a young woman who, back in 2013, was diagnosed with the virus that causes the deadly AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), said researchers. The added that this has raised the hopes as she could be one of few people around the globe who have permanently fought off the infection.
The 30 year old woman, who comes from Esperanca, a city in Argentina, is a month and has the clinical features of an HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Viruses) “elite controller”. This means that her infection has been undetectable for years.
The virus in her body did not even emerge back after she stopped taking the powerful drugs she used to treat it, which is what normally happens, researchers said in a study which is currently slated for publication in the Annals of Internal Medicine, USA.
The virus also does not appear to have integrated into her DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid), creating what is known as a provirus, and even after extensive testing, the doctors failed to find a trace of it anywhere in her body.
It is possible that she has experienced what is known as a “sterilizing cure,” in the medical world.
A “sterilizing cure” means when a patient no longer carries a replicating form of the virus, they said.
How it happened remains a mystery yet to be solved.
There are at least two other HIV patients who have been deemed cured, however, both of those patients underwent extensive treatment for blood cancer which included stem cell transplants. The researchers offered no answers as to how the young mother got rid of the virus from her body, but her existence suggests it is possible.
The researchers, led by Xu Yu at the Boston’s Ragon Institute and Natalia Laufer from the Institute of Biomedical Research in Retrovirus and AIDS in Buenos Aires, Argentina, said that the virus “was not detected in an elite controller despite analysis of massive numbers of cells from blood and tissues, suggesting that this patient may have naturally achieved a sterilizing cure of HIV-1 infection.”
They also said that “These observations raise the possibility that a sterilizing cure may be an extremely rare but possible outcome of HIV-1 infection.”
For decades, doctors, across the globe, have made attempts towards eradicating the virus within patients but have been unsuccessful. Though there have been combination drug therapies that could help in suppressing the virus to an extent it becomes undetectable, the vast majority of patients still have a reservoir that gets reactivated after the treatment stops.
Finding another person who has become virus-free raises the hope for other ways to wipe out the reservoir and cure more people.
It is possible the patient’s initial immune response to HIV had led to an abortive infection or that her immune system became better at recognizing and destroying it over time, leaving only remnants of HIV behind, said co-author Sharon Lewin who is the Director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne.
Lewin said, “People are excited about it because it’s sort of another pathway to a cure,” during an interview on Wednesday, and added, “You can eventually get rid of the intact virus and you’re just left with these footprints of the virus.”
Close to 1% of the Caucasian people living with HIV develop control over the infection. It is possible that a subset could be cured, which means they no longer will have any replication-competent HIV, said Lewin, who is studying the genetic details of what constitutes a cure.
The researchers said that the 30 year old woman from Argentina, whose partner died of AIDS in July of 2017, resembles the “Berlin patient”. That man named Timothy Brown from Berlin developed a probable sterilizing cure of HIV after undergoing a stem cell transplant to treat acute myeloid leukaemia almost 15 years ago.
Since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic, close to 8 crore people have been infected with HIV out of which more than 3.6 crore people have died from complications of the viral illness.
Globally, an estimated 3.77 crore people were living with HIV in 2020.
Over the past 20 years, the progress against AIDS has inspired a commitment by the United Nations member states to end the epidemic by the year 2030.
The number of people newly infected with HIV fell to 15 lakh across the globe in 2020, from 30 lakh in 1997.