She did not develop graft versus host disease and left the hospital 17 days after her transplant, said the doctors.
In a historic first, a woman has been cured of HIV for the first time. The woman of mixed race was cured of HIV by an American research team using a transplant method involving umbilical cord blood. HIV is believed to progress differently in women when compared to men and this case could prove to be a major breakthrough. She is now one of three people to have been cured of HIV, joining an exclusive club of two men. Scientists believe the new transplant method could help cure more people of diverse racial backgrounds than was previously thought to be possible. “The fact that she’s mixed race, and that she’s a woman, that is really important scientifically and really important in terms of the community impact,” said Dr. Steven Deeks, an AIDS expert at the University of California, San Francisco, reported New York Times. The details of the case were presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Denver.
The sex and racial background of the latest case are of huge significance as a majority of the donors in registries are of Caucasian origin, and this only allows for a partial match for other sex and races. his new case could help cure dozens of Americans who have both H.I.V. and cancer each year. “These are stories of providing inspiration to the field and perhaps the road map,” said Deeks. Despite accounting for more than half of the HIV cases in the world, women make up only 11 percent of the participants in cure trials.
The woman involved in the case is being referred to as the "New York patient." She was treated at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City after being diagnosed with HIV in 2013 and acute myelogenous leukemia in 2017. Antiretroviral drugs had helped her keep her virus levels low. She received cord blood to treat her cancer and it came from a partially matched donor. She was also given blood from a close relative to provide her body with temporary immune defenses during the transplant.
One of the patients who was cured of HIV was referred to as the "Berlin Patient.” Timothy Ray Brown remained virus-free for 12 years before passing away from cancer in 2020. Brown had been given bone marrow transplants from donors who carried a mutation that blocks HIV infection. The same method was applied to Adam Castillejo in 2019. Castillejo was another patient who was cured of HIV through the bone marrow method. This helped establish that Brown's case wasn't a one-off. The mutation has only been detected in 20,000 donors found in people of Northern European descent.
However, the bone marrow method is risky and has side effects including graft versus host disease, where the donor’s cells attack the recipient’s body. Brown nearly died following his transplant while Castillejo lost nearly 70 pounds and developed a hearing loss and survived multiple infections, said his doctors. Bone marrow transplants are offered as an option to cancer patients who have exhausted other options.
However, the woman hasn't developed any such complications so far. Dr. JingMei Hsu, a physician at Weill Cornell Medicine, who treated the woman, said she did not develop graft versus host disease and left the hospital 17 days after her transplant. Dr. Hsu believes the combination of cord blood and her relative’s cells might have ensured she didn't experience any side effects commonly associated with a typical bone marrow transplant. “It was previously thought that graft versus host disease might be an important reason for an HIV cure in the prior cases,” said Dr. Sharon Lewin, president-elect of the International AIDS Society.