Woman becomes second HIV patient whose body has rid itself of virus completely
Scientists have identified a second patient whose body has rid itself of HIV.
The woman, in her 30s, shows no evidence of the virus in more than 1.5 billion blood and tisue cells analysed.
It offers hope of a cure for 38 million infected individuals around the world.
Lead author Professor Xu Yu, of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, said: “These findings – especially with the identification of a second case – indicate there may be an actionable path to a sterilising cure for people who are not able to do this on their own.”
The unnamed woman, whose boyfriend died of AIDS, was diagnosed in 2013.
She is what scientists call an ‘elite controller’. Her immune system suppresses HIV without the need for medication.
The virus settles into parts of her genome known as ‘gene deserts’ – where it does nothing
The woman, referred to as the ‘Esperanza Patient’, lives in Argentina. Both her current partner and baby are HIV negative.
In most patients, new particles are constantly made from a ‘viral reservoir’. During infection, HIV places copies of its genome into the DNA of cells.
In this state, the Aids-causing virus effectively hides from anti-HIV drugs and the body’s immune response.
Anti-retroviral therapy (ART) can prevent new viruses being made. But they cannot eliminate the reservoir – necessitating daily medication.
Elite controllers have a type of immune cell called killer T cells that keep HIV in check.
The study in the Annals of Internal Medicine represents a second instance of a ‘sterilising cure.’ There must be others, say experts.
Dr Natalia Laufer, the patient’s doctor in Buenos Aires, said: “Finding one patient with this natural ability for functional cure – no virus that can reproduce – is good.
“But finding two means so much more. It means there must be more people like this out there.”