One patients had a stem cell transplant; the other patient’s recovery appears to be related to a special kinds of cells she possesses:
A 66-year-old man in Southern California and a woman in her 70s in Spain are the latest in a small group of people who appear to have beaten their HIV infections, providing researchers new clues to a possible cure at a time when Covid-19 and other crises are slowing progress against the spreading virus.
Doctors caring for the man said they have not found any human immunodeficiency virus that can replicate in his body since he stopped antiretroviral drug therapy in March 2021 after a transplant of stem cells containing a rare genetic mutation that blocks HIV infection. He was given the transplant for leukemia, for which people with HIV are at increased risk. Details of his case were made public Wednesday and will be presented at a large international AIDS conference in Montreal, which opens Friday.
He is the oldest of five patients thus far who appear to have rid their bodies of HIV after the risky procedure and had been infected the longest, since 1988, offering hope for a growing cohort of aging HIV patients, said Jana Dickter, an infectious disease doctor who cares for the man at City of Hope, a cancer research and treatment center in Duarte, Calif., in the Los Angeles area.
“He saw many of his friends and loved ones become ill and ultimately succumb to the disease and had experienced some stigma associated with having HIV,” she said. His success “opens up the opportunity potentially for older patients to undergo this procedure and go into remission from both their blood cancer and HIV.”
The woman in Spain still has HIV lying dormant in some cells in her body. But the amount is declining, and the virus isn’t replicating even though she stopped antiretroviral therapy more than 15 years ago, said Juan Ambrosioni, one of the doctors caring for her at the Hospital Clinic of the August Pi i Sunyer Biomedical Research Institute in Barcelona.
She was diagnosed with HIV at age 59 shortly after becoming infected, and entered a clinical trial in which she received antiretroviral drugs as well as therapies to boost her immune system. After nine months, the antiretrovirals were stopped, Dr. Ambrosioni said.
Years of research finally revealed how she keeps her HIV naturally under control, he said: she has high levels of two types of immune cells that the virus normally suppresses and that probably help control viral replication, he said. Details of her case will be presented at the same conference. Both patients declined to be identified publicly.
You should be able to read the rest of the article in the Wall Street Journal by Betsy McKay by clicking this link.
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