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Woman appears to be third patient cured of HIV, scientists say

  A middle-aged woman is believed to be the third patient cured of HIV, scientists say. What are the details? A Wednesday report from  the W...

 A middle-aged woman is believed to be the third patient cured of HIV, scientists say.

What are the details?

A Wednesday report from the Washington Post states that the mixed-race woman received a stem cell transplant harvested from an infant's umbilical cord blood ahead of her potential curing.

The virus, according to the report, has been in remission for four years, and she has not taken an antiretroviral drugs for the infection in 14 months.

The case was reported at an annual meeting of the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infection and is said to mark the very first time a stem cell transplant approach has been successful in a mixed-race woman — an advance, the Post reported, "that reinforces the exciting concept that an HIV cure may be possible in a wider array of people by using cord blood."

Dr. Yvonne J. Bryson, an infectious diseases expert at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine, presented the case and said that the findings should be encouraging for all infected with HIV.

During a press conference ABC News reported, Bryson said, "Today, we reported the third known case of HIV remission and the first woman following a stem cell transplant and using HIV-resistant cells."

"This case is special for several reasons: First, our participant was a U.S. woman living with HIV of mixed race, who needed a stem cell transplant for treatment of her leukemia. And she would find a more difficult time finding both a genetic match and one with the HIV-resistant mutation to both cure her cancer and potentially her HIV. This is a natural, but rare mutation."

"This provides hope for the use of cord blood cells ... to achieve HIV remission for the individuals requiring transplant for other diseases," she explained. "This provides additional proof that HIV reservoirs can be cleared sufficiently to afford remission and cure."

Scientists in 2009 reported that a white man diagnosed with leukemia had possibly been cured of HIV with a stem cell transplant. In 2019, scientists carried out the same treatment on an HIV-positive Hispanic man.

Emory University School of Medicine Professor Carlos del Rio said that the development is "critical science" that should lead scientists down the path for a permanent cure for HIV.

“This is not a scalable intervention," he explained. "The way I think about this: This is like sending someone on a rocket to the moon. It’s great science, but it’s not the way we’re going to travel.”

Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the International AIDS Society, told the Post that the news has been enlightening and encouraging.

“A bone-marrow transplant is not a viable large-scale strategy for curing HIV, but it does present a proof of concept that HIV can be cured. It also further strengthens using gene therapy as a viable strategy for an HIV cure,” Lewin said.

What else?

Dr. Anthony Fauci, infectious diseases expert, said in response to the news that he doesn't want HIV-positive patients to pre-emptively celebrate.

"I don't want people to think that now this is something that can be applied to the 36 million people [globally] who are living with HIV," he cautioned. "This person had an underlying disease that required a stem cell transplant. ... It is not practical to think that this is something that's going to be widely available. It's more of a proof of concept."

In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first-ever long-acting injection for HIV prevention.

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