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First Woman Reported to be Cured of HIV using Umbilical Cord Blood

A middle-aged patient in the United States with leukemia is reported to be the first woman to be cured of HIV using a more recently developed treatment.

The case of the first woman to be reported cured of the disease was presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunisitic Infections (CROI) in Denver. The researchers described the patient as mixed race, diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia four years after her HIV diagnosis.

In 2017, she received a stem cell transplant from an adult family member after receiving high-dose chemotherapy to destroy her cancerous immune cells. She then received stem cells from the umbilical cord blood of an unrelated newborn, which is a newer approach to treating leukemia. The cord blood had a mutation that makes cells resistant to HIV infection.

According to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, donor cells used in cord blood stem cell transplantation may come from either a related or unrelated matched donor, which may open doors to making HIV treatment more available since it eliminates the necessity for rigorous genetic matching.

According to the Wall Street Journal, no signs of the human immunodeficiency virus were detected in the patient since her last antiretroviral treatment in October 2020. This makes her the first woman and the third person to be reported in remission from HIV after stem cell treatment. The first two cases received stem cells through bone marrow transplants.

The case is part of a study led by Dr. Yvonne Bryson of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) and Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore following 25 people with HIV who underwent cord blood stem cell transplant for treatment of cancer and other serious conditions.

As reported by NBC, stem cell transplant is highly risky, since it destroys the patient’s immune system in order to rebuild it with new cells, making the treatment fatally dangerous to attempt on patients who do not have a potentially fatal cancer or condition that makes them a qualified candidate for such a risky treatment.

Albeit risky, this milestone points the search for HIV cure in the right direction, NBC News’ Senior Medical Correspondent John Torres reported.

“[The result] is giving them a lot of information on what direction they need to take with HIV research to try and get that elusive cure that they’ve been working on for decades.”

UNAIDS reported that globally, about 37.7 million are living with HIV in 2020. DOH has also reported 890 confirmed HIV-positive individuals in January 2021, adding to the 83,755 total diagnosed cases in the Philippines since January 1984.

SOURCES: Reuters, Forbes, LLS, CNN Health, AIDS Data Hub, UNAIDS

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