Umbilical cord blood helps cure woman of HIV: report

A new transplant method using umbilical cord blood has cured a mixed-race woman of HIV, according to a New York Times report. The person is believed to be the third known person to be cured of the disease.

The report says the woman, who also has leukemia, received cord blood to treat her cancer. This was taken from a partially matched donor and not from someone of a similar race and ethnicity, which is standard practice.

HIV is an epidemic in India, and the country has the third highest number of patients living with HIV. According to the Government Report on HIV Estimates (2019), India is estimated to have around 23.49 lakh people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) in 2019.

The HIV epidemic is on an overall downward trend in the country, with an estimated annual decline in new HIV infections of 37% between 2010 and 2019, according to the government.

Details of this case were presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Denver, Colorado.

“The fact that she’s mixed-race and that she’s female, that’s really important scientifically and really important in terms of impacting the community,” said Steven Deeks, an AIDS expert at the University of California, quoted by the newspaper. He was unrelated to the woman’s case.

The only two known cases of HIV recovery were Timothy Ray Brown, better known as the “Berlin Patient”. He remained virus-free for 12 years but died in 2020 from cancer. Adam Castillejo is the other who recovered from HIV in 2019.

The newspaper reports that they both received bone marrow transplants from donors who carried a mutation that blocks HIV infection.

The HIV-positive patient returned home 17 days after her transplant and apparently did not develop any major problems.

Experts don’t know why cord blood stem cells worked so well in the woman’s case. “One possibility is that they are more able to adapt to a new environment,” the NYT said, citing Koen Van Besien, director of the transplant department at Weill Cornell.

First post: STI


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