An HIV-positive woman who stopped taking medication 15 years ago is still living with the virus, but her immune system is controlling it, offering hope to people struggling with AIDS.
Spanish experts say the woman – referred to only as ‘Barcelona patient’ – is an exceptional case in the world.
His case, presented at the 24th International AIDS Conference in Montreal, Canada, is unlike other high-profile cases that have seen patients completely cured of AIDS after receiving stem cell transplants to treat the blood diseases they suffered from. were suffering.
More than 15 years ago, the Barcelona patient was diagnosed with acute HIV infection – the earliest stage of HIV infection – and was put on a clinical trial of antiretroviral therapy for nine months and several doses of the immunosuppressive drug cyclosporine A.
It was revealed at the conference that she still harbors viable HIV, but her immune system has controlled virus replication over the years.
Experts from the Hospital Clinic de Barcelona will now try to reproduce the immunological mechanisms of women in other infected patients.
Antiretroviral therapy – the standard for keeping AIDS under control – is effective in suppressing viral replication in the body and blocking transmission to others, leaving the patient with HIV levels in the blood so low that it becomes undetectable in a conventional analysis.
But the virus persists in reservoirs, so if therapy is stopped, it has the ability to replicate and can attack the patient again.
However, a very small group of people, like the Barcelona patient, who are ‘post-treatment controllers’ and, after stopping medication, manage to maintain undetectable viral loads.
Josep Mallolas, head of the HIV unit at Hospital Clinic de Barcelona, said the woman’s case “is exceptional not only because there are very few people with long post-treatment control term – 15 years, but also because of its HIV control mechanism, which is different from that described in “elite controller” patients and other cases documented so far. »
“Elite controller” patients are people who are infected with HIV but never develop symptoms and do not require medication due to an extremely rare natural response.
Conference attendees in Canada also heard of a 66-year-old American man who had apparently been cured of HIV through a stem cell transplant to treat blood cancer. This would make him the fifth person to have been apparently cured of HIV.
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.