Scientists possibly cure HIV in first-time breakthrough for virus

pharmafile | February 16, 2022 | News story | Research and Development  

An American research team appear to have cured HIV in a woman for the first time, making her the third person to be cured of the virus. Following a cutting-edge treatment four years ago, a “New York patient” is now off of HIV medication and remains “asymptomatic and healthy,” researchers say.

Building on past successes, as well as failures, in the HIV-cure research field, these scientists used a cutting-edge stem cell transplant method that they expect will expand the pool of people who could receive similar treatment to several dozen people every year.

The woman who was cured was also suffering from leukaemia.

In spite of the success, Dr Deborah Persaud has stressed the stem cell treatment method is “still not a feasible strategy for all but a handful of the millions of people living with HIV.” Dr Persaud is a paediatric infectious disease specialist at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine who chairs the NIH-funded scientific committee behind the new case study, the International Maternal Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials Network,

Their patient joins a group containing only three others, all men, who scientists have cured, or very likely cured, of HIV. Researchers also know of two women whose own immune systems have, quite extraordinarily, apparently vanquished the virus.

In the first case of what was ultimately deemed a successful HIV cure, investigators treated Timothy Ray Brown for acute myeloid leukaemia. Brown received a stem cell transplant from a donor who had a rare genetic abnormality granting the immune cells that HIV targets natural resistance to the virus.

The strategy was first made public in 2008, and since cured HIV in two other people. It has also failed in a string of others. Experts have stressed that attempting to cure HIV through a stem cell transplant is unethical in anyone who does not have a potentially fatal cancer, as the procedure is toxic and sometimes fatal.

Women account for the majority of global HIV cases, but account for only 11 per cent of participants in cure trials.

Ana Ovey

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