Scientists report the second case of a patient self-cured of HIV without the use of any anti-retroviral drugs.
In 2020, Dr. Xu Yu reported the first known instance of a sterilizing cure of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The San Francisco patient had self-cured themself of HIV without a stem-cell transplant, surprising researchers worldwide. Dr Yu and her team had sequenced billions of cells from the patient and had failed to find any intact HIV viral sequence. Thus, confirming it to be a sterilizing cure. So, how did this happen? The study revealed that the patient had simply eliminated their HIV reservoir thanks to their remarkable immune system.
Now, the same team has discovered another similar case. According to the case report, the 30-year-old Esperanza patient first became diagnosed in 2013. She underwent anti-retroviral therapy (ART) in 2019, but left it soon after. During the next four years, Dr. Yu and her team sequenced billions of her blood and tissue cells for the presence of HIV. They could not find any HIV genome within the cells. Thus, another instance of a sterilizing cure.
What are Elite Controllers of HIV?
Both the San Francisco and Esperanza patient are labelled ‘elite controllers’ of HIV. These patients have a unique immune system that prevents the virus from replicating inside the cells. Therefore, they can maintain undetectable levels of the virus in their body without ART. Although such patients have viral reservoirs, their killer T cells keep the virus suppressed.
The team of researchers believes a further understanding of the underlying immune response can help them develop treatments that mimic these responses in HIV patients. Moreover, they aim to compare both the cases of sterilizing cure and identify any similarities between the two.
Turk, Gabriela, et al. “A Possible Sterilizing Cure of HIV-1 Infection without Stem Cell Transplantation.” Annals of Internal Medicine, 2021, https://doi.org/10.7326/l21-0297.