A New York biracial woman could be the third person to be treated for HIV after a successful stem cell transplant. The two other cases recorded before her are Timothy Ray Brown in Berlin, and Adam Castillejo in London.
For the first two cases, they received stem cell transplantation. Two of them had bone marrow transplants, a more difficult procedure than cord blood transplant. Cord blood transplant was the procedure used for the woman who wished to remain anonymous.
The woman has been living with HIV since 2013. She started her treatment immediately, pushing her viral load to undetectable levels where she cannot transmit the virus to another person.
However, she was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2017. She was treated for leukaemia using both a relative’s adult stem cells, and umbilical cord blood. The umbilical cord contains a mutation that helps the immune system to resist HIV.
She has been without signs and symptoms of HIV for the last 14 months. If she can stay off treatment without any single sign of HIV, she will be the third person, and the first recorded woman, to be cured of HIV through transplant.
Yvonne Bryson, MD, chief of paediatric infectious diseases at UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, presented the data at the Conferences on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections 2022. According to Dr. Bryson, the HIV did not affect her cells.
Soon after her HIV status was confirmed, and she started treatment, her viral load dropped to undetectable levels. It spiked up after she received a transplant, but went back to undetectable levels and has stayed the same since then.
By using the new HIV-resistant cells provided by the transplant, her immune system was able to rebuild itself. The success of the transplant allowed her to leave the hospital much earlier. A hundred day after the transplant, She has stopped HIV treatment 27 months since the transplant to see if it worked.
Bryson and her team monitored her closely for 14 months since then. She showed no signs and symptoms of HIV, testing negative to the virus. In an interview, Bryson said cells are now resistant to HIV now – both her own strains and laboratory strains.
The major challenge is how to make this cure easily available for other HIV patients, especially other races. Most donors who have the gene mutation the patient received are white.