Woman may be first person cured of HIV without treatment

A 66-year-old woman who was infected with HIV in 1992 may be the first person cured of the virus without medication or a bone-marrow transplant, reports The New York Times.

Researchers examined blood cells in a way never possible before and published the findings Aug. 26 in Nature. The research suggests a new mechanism in which the body may suppress HIV. Scientists analysed 1.5 billion blood cells from Loreen Willenberg, whose body has suppressed HIV for decades after infection, and found no trace of the virus. Only two other people have been declared cured of HIV, both of whom underwent bone-marrow transplants for cancer.

Researchers also say the virus appeared to be sequestered in such a way that it could not reproduce in an additional 63 people. Such findings indicate that a small number of patients taking antiretroviral therapy may similarly be able to suppress HIV and stop taking the drugs.

"It does suggest that treatment itself can cure people, which goes against all the dogma," said Steve Deeks, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, and a study author.

"It's certainly encouraging, but speculative," said Una O'Doherty, MD, PhD, a virologist at Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania. "I need to see more before I would say, 'Oh, she's cured.'"

"The real challenge, of course, is how you can intervene to make this relevant to the 37 million people living with HIV," Dr. Sharon Lewin, director of the Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity in Melbourne, Australia, told The New York Times. 

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