American scientists report a woman was possibly cured of HIV in a breakthrough treatment for the disease.
Carl Dieffenbach, director of the Division of AIDS at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, one of multiple divisions involved in the study, confirmed to NBC News that researchers used an innovative stem cell transplant method, which will likely be expanded from a limited number of people treated to several dozen annually.
The patient is the first woman to have been cured of HIV, following three male cases previously, as well as two women whose own immune systems have uncharacteristically seemed to defeat the virus themselves.
Dieffenbach said the new discovery “continues to provide hope” for a long-term cure for the deadly virus.
“It’s important that there continues to be success along this line,”Dieffenbach said.
In November, a woman in Argentina became the second documented individual whose own immune system is believed to have possibly cured her of the HIV virus.
The 30-year-old mother was initially diagnosed with HIV in 2013 and has been referred to as the “Esperanza patient” in honor of her hometown, which also means “hope” in English, NBC News reports.
“I enjoy being healthy,” the woman, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the stigma associated with the virus, told NBC News in Spanish via email. “I have a healthy family. I don’t have to medicate, and I live as though nothing has happened. This already is a privilege.”
The study was published on November 15 in the Annals of Internal Medicine and its co-authors believe the data provides hope to the estimated 38 million suffering from the virus globally, as well as the ever-expanding research field working toward an HIV cure.
The “Esperanza patient” case is the second involving a so-called sterilizing cure of the virus apparently being possible through natural immunity, according to its co-authors.
“This is really the miracle of the human immune system that did it,” said Dr. Xu Yu, a viral immunologist at the Ragon Institute in Boston, who partnered with Dr. Natalia Laufer, a physician scientist at INBIRS Institute in Buenos Aries, Argentina, to search for any viable HIV in the woman’s body during the study.
Scientists are pursuing multiple tactics to curing HIV including gene therapy, which involves a “kick and kill” procedure to flush the virus from its reservoir or use “block and lock” methods to keep it trapped in cells, as well as therapeutic vaccines aimed to enhance the individual’s immune response to the deadly virus.