The 30-year-old mother having AIDS, originally from Esperanza in Argentina, has the clinical characteristics of an HIV “elite controller,” indicating her infection has been undetectable for years.
It didn’t reemerge even after she quit taking powerful drugs to handle it, which is what occurs typically, researchers said in research slated for writing in the Annals of Internal Medicine.
The virus also doesn’t seem to have blended into her DNA, creating what is recognized as a provirus, and comprehensive testing failed to set it up anywhere. They said that she may have encountered what is recognized as a “sterilizing cure,” meaning she is no longer leading a replicating form of the virus.
How it happened is a mystery. At least two other HIV sufferers have also been healed, but both experienced extensive treatment for blood cancer that required stem cell transplants. The researchers gave no clues about how the young mother eradicated the virus, but her existence implies possibility.
Expedition against AIDS over the past two decades has sparked a commitment by United Nations member states to stop the epidemic by 2030.
All signs of HIV have perished in a young woman diagnosed with the virus that produces AIDS in 2013, researchers said, boosting hopes that she may be one of a handful of people globally who have enduringly fought off the disease.
The virus “was not identified in an elite controller despite analysis of huge numbers of cells from blood and tissues. Therefore, it is proposing that this patient may have consistently achieved a sterilizing cure of HIV-1 infection,” said researchers led by Natalia Laufer from the Institute of Biomedical Research in Retrovirus and AIDS and Xu Yu at Boston’s Ragon Institute in Buenos Aires. “These observations foster the possibility that a sterilizing cure may be an uncommon but possible consequence of HIV-1 infection.”
Doctors have worked unsuccessfully for decades to exterminate the virus inside patients. While the blend of drug therapies can overcome it, so it’s no longer detectable, the vast majority of patients still have a reservoir that’s reactivated after treatment stops. So finding another person who’s virus-free raises the hope for other ways to wash out the provisions and cure more people.
About 1% of Caucasian people dwelling with HIV develop control over the infection. In addition, a subset may be cured, meaning they no longer have any replication-competent HIV, said Lewin, who is studying the genetic details of what constitutes a cure.
It’s possible the patient’s primary immune response to HIV is affected by an abortive infection or that her immune system became abler at recognizing and destroying it over time. As a result, it leaves only remnants of HIV behind, said co-author Sharon Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity at the University of Melbourne.
“People are excited about it because it’s sort of another pathway to a cure,” Lewin said in an interview Wednesday. “You can eventually get rid of the intact virus, and you’re just left with these footprints of the virus.”