A new transplant method using umbilical cord blood has reportedly cured a woman of mixed race of HIV, according to a report by the New York Times. The person is said to be the third known person ever to be cured of the disease.
The report said the woman, who also had leukaemia, received cord blood to treat her cancer. This was taken from a partially matched donor and not from a person of a similar race and ethnicity, which is a usual practice.
HIV is an epidemic in India, and the country has the third-highest number of patients living with HIV. As per the government's HIV estimates report (2019), India is estimated to have around 23.49 lakh people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) in 2019.
The HIV epidemic has an overall decreasing trend in the country with estimated annual New HIV infections declining by 37 percent between 2010 and 2019, according to the government.
The 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 a woman, that is really important scientifically and really important in terms of the community impact," the paper quoted Steven Deeks, an AIDS expert at the University of California, as saying. He was not related to the woman's case.
The only two know cases of HIV cure have been Timothy Ray Brown, better known as "Berlin Patient". He stayed virus-free for 12 years but died in 2020 of cancer. Adam Castillejo was the other one who recovered from HIV in 2019.
The paper reported that they both received bone marrow transplants from donors who carried a mutation that blocks HIV infection.
The woman HIV patient went home 17 days after her transplant and has reportedly not developed any major issues.
Experts are unclear why stem cells from cord blood worked so well in the woman's case. "One possibility is that they are more capable of adapting to a new environment," NYT quoted Koen Van Besien, director of the transplant service at Weill Cornell, as saying.