An Argentine woman’s immune system may have cured her of HIV, study finds. Only the second reported case of a woman’s immune system possibly curing her of HIV has been discovered in Argentina.
The 30-year-old mother, who was originally diagnosed with HIV in 2013, has been called the “Esperanza patient” after the town where she resides in Argentina. “I like being healthy,” said the Esperanza patient, who requested anonymity owing to the virus’s stigma. “My family is in great shape. I don’t need to take any medications, and I go about my daily life as if nothing has occurred. It’s already a great honor.”
The example is one of two proofs of concept that a so-called sterilizing treatment of the virus by natural immunity is presumably conceivable. “This is truly a marvel of the human immune system,” said Dr. Xu Yu, a viral immunologist at the Ragon Institute in Boston, who led the painstaking search for any active HIV in the woman’s body alongside Dr. Natalia Laufer, a medical scientist at the INBIRS Institute in Buenos Aries, Argentina.
Dr. Steven Deeks, a well-known HIV cure researcher at the University of California, San Francisco, who was not involved in the study, stated, “Now we have to figure out the processes.” “What causes this to happen? And, more importantly, how can we replicate this therapeutically in everyone?”
On numerous fronts, scientists are attempting to cure HIV, including gene therapy, “kick and kill” efforts to drain the virus from its so-called reservoir or “block and lock” approaches to keep it imprisoned in cells, and therapeutic vaccinations to boost the body’s immunological response to the infection. To date, researchers have medically treated two additional patients, both of whom received sophisticated and hazardous stem cell transplants.
Because HIV infects particular long-lived immune cells, known collectively as the viral reservoir, which may spend long periods of time in a resting condition, it has proven extremely difficult to eliminate from the body.
Standard antiretroviral therapy can only fight the virus in infected cells while they are actively churning out new copies of HIV, thus the viral DNA encoded in those cells, known as provirus, remains undetected.
Even after scanning over one billion of the woman’s cells using very advanced and sensitive testing, researchers were unable to identify any live HIV in her body.
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