Scientists in Massachusetts say they have found a second HIV patient who has cleared the virus naturally, CNN reported.
The scientists who made the announcement are members of the Ragon Institute, which is a medical institute focused on HIV research, with scientists from the Massachusetts General Hospital, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Harvard University. They have been studying a particular group of HIV patients for years, Gizmodo reported.
The scientists reported their findings in Annals of Internal Medicine that the 30-year-old patient, who hails from Esperanza, Argentina, showed no evidence of intact HIV in large numbers of her cells, CNN reported.
It suggested that she may have naturally achieved what they describe as a “sterilizing cure” of HIV infection after contracting it eight years ago, CNN reported.
Patients like the “Esperanza patient” and a woman in San Francisco who was the first to naturally beat the illness in 2019, are known as “elite controllers,” and they all appear to have immune systems that can effectively keep HIV in check without antiretroviral therapy (ART) or bone marrow transplant, which have been standard treatments in the past, Gizmodo reported.
“A sterilizing cure for HIV has previously only been observed in two patients who received a highly toxic bone marrow transplant. Our study shows that such a cure can also be reached during natural infection — in the absence of bone marrow transplants (or any type of treatment at all),” Dr. Xu Yu of the Ragon Institute told CNN. “Examples of such a cure that develops naturally suggest that current efforts to find a cure for HIV infection are not elusive, and that the prospects of getting to an ‘AIDS-free generation’ may ultimately be successful.”
Current HIV drugs allow the illness to go undetected but it remains unclear if it clears the patient 100% of the virus, Time reported.
“There is no way to ever say we have proof that there is not a single virus in this patient,” Yu told Time. “The only thing we can say is that after analyzing a large number of cells from the patient, with the technology in our lab we cannot reject the hypothesis that the patient probably reached a sterilizing cure by natural immunity.”
Yu told Time that the findings may not be generalizable to most HIV patients.