A second person with HIV seems to have cleared the infection without stem cell treatments, raising optimism for efforts to develop a cure or vaccine. Researchers could find no evidence of intact virus in the patient, a 30-year-old woman from Esperanza, Argentina who’d been diagnosed eight years prior.
“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,” Xu Yu, of the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, MIT, and Harvard, told CNN in an email.
Yu and her colleagues reported the findings on November 15 in Annals of Internal Medicine. The team previously described the first-known person—a 67-year-old woman named Loreen Willenberg—to naturally achieve this so-called sterilizing cure last year in the journal Nature. Additionally, two other cases of a sterilizing cure have been reported in people with HIV who received bone marrow transplants (also known as stem cell transplants).
About 38 million people are currently living with HIV, which if untreated causes AIDS. During infection, HIV inserts copies of its genetic material, known as proviruses, into the DNA of the host’s own cells. This creates a viral reservoir that allows HIV to hide from the immune system.