Women health


Sarah Jacoby contributed to this article.

Having followed an experimental stem cell transplant procedure, a woman has gone 14 months with no detectable levels of HIV in her body. The "New York patient," as she's been dubbed, is the fourth person — and the first woman — to be cured of HIV through this method. hiv test kit at-home blood testing

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, she is one of 25 HIV-positive people who received a cord blood stem cell transplant to treat cancer or other underlying conditions as part of the IMPAACT P1107 clinical trial, which began in 2015.

According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the New York patient was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia four years into her HIV treatment. Her cancer went into remission following chemotherapy. In 2017, she underwent the procedure. She stopped taking antiretroviral medication around three years after the transplant. For 14 months, she has been HIV-free. Fundamentals of HIV Medicine

According to Dr. John Torres, NBC's senior medical correspondent, the New York patient is "functionally" cured because, while doctors haven't been able to detect HIV in her blood for several months, it will take even longer to be sure she is truly cured. "The virus can be tricky to deal with. It's capable of hiding and reappearing a decade later, so they're keeping a close eye on it "he stated

She is the most recent of a small number of HIV-positive patients who have reportedly been cured after receiving a stem cell transplant. The first patient dubbed the "Berlin patient," was HIV-free for 12 years before succumbing to leukemia in 2020. Researchers presented the cases of the "London patient" and the "Düsseldorf patient" in 2019, who both achieved HIV remission after stem cell transplantation.

However, the case of the New York patient is unique. In general, the procedure entails first administering chemotherapy to the patients' bodies in order to eliminate cancerous cells. Then, stem cells with a specific genetic mutation are transplanted into them. According to Torres, the goal is to treat both cancer (and another underlying health condition) and HIV by essentially destroying and replacing the patient's immune system.

A haplo-cord transplant was performed on the New York patient, which is a hybrid of two transplants: Then there was the umbilical cord blood transplant, which contained the HIV-resistant genetic mutation. After that, she received an adult stem cell transplant. According to NBC News, the technique, developed by a team at Weill-Cornell Medicine, has some advantages over previous methods, including a lower risk of graft vs. host disease.

"These procedures have a lot of potential side effects, including death," Bruce Walker, director of the Ragon Institute at MGH, MIT, and Harvard, told TODAY. As a result, it's only used in patients who already have another potentially fatal condition. "Without that, it's difficult to recommend that someone undergo a potentially lethal procedure at exorbitant costs," Walker, who studies the immune response to viral infections, particularly HIV, said.

While the new case is promising, stem cell transplants are "still not a feasible strategy for all but a handful of the millions of people living with HIV," according to Dr. Deborah Persaud, scientific chair of the committee overseeing the International Maternal, Pediatric Adolescent AIDS Clinical Trials and a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

There were also two documented cases of women — known as elite controllers — whose immune systems were able to eradicate the virus on their own. "Based on these two cases, (there maybe) a way to augment the body's immune system to be able to do a better job eliminating the virus," Walker, whose Ragon Institute led the research on these two cases, said. "It's possible, based on these unusual cases. It's up to us now to figure out how to do it again."

Despite the fact that there is no universal cure for HIV, patients can receive antiretroviral therapy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people can effectively manage HIV and even get it to undetectable levels in the blood with this type of ongoing treatment. According to the CDC, at that point, a patient has "effectively no risk" of transmitting the virus to others via sex.

According to Walker, learning more about these rare successful cases of HIV cure will hopefully aid researchers in finding better ways to treat more people living with the disease. "Cases like these demonstrate what's possible," he said. "It also helps to focus us on the steps we need to take to make this more accessible to a wider audience."




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