White blood cells flowing through red blood as a microbiology symbol of the human immune system fighting off infections defending and protecting the body from infectious disease

The woman whose own immune system possibly cured her of HIV

HIV is an illness that affects people around the world. So far, there is no known, sure-fire cure for it. Up until recently, the only hope for HIV patients was treatments to control the virus, not kill it. In recent years, however, there have been some patients who have seemingly cured their HIV. There is one particular case from Argentina where the female’s own immune system has seemingly naturally cured her body of the illness. This is what doctors know so far.

Woman’s Own Immune Naturally “Cures” Her Of HIV

A 30-year-old mother in Argentina has recently become one of two known people whose own immune systems have cured them of HIV naturally. Diagnosed in 2013, she is known as the Esperanza Patient for the name of the town that she lives in. Esperanza also means hope in Spanish, which is fitting considering the hope her case is giving to the 38 million HIV patients around the world. (1)

Dr. Xu Yu, a viral immunologist at the Ragon Institute in Boston worked with physician-scientist Dr. Natalia Laufer at INBIRS Institute in Buenos Aires, Argentina to search for any HIV in the woman’s body. They searched tens of thousands of her cells and couldn’t find a single sign of any active form of the HIV virus at all. By all accounts, it appears as though her immune system has eradicated it from her body naturally.

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“This is really the miracle of the human immune system that did it,” said Dr. Yu. (2)

Now, scientists are saying, the trick is figuring out how. They want to know the mechanisms that allow the immune system to do this as well as how they can take that and turn it into a therapy that can be used by everyone.

Read: Cancer Completely Disappears In All Patients During Experimental Drug Trial

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Curing HIV

Finding a cure for HIV, the illness that can cause AIDS has been an elusive search. While scientists have found treatments, an actual cure that can be applied to the millions of people living with HIV has yet to be found. That being said, there have been a small handful of incidents in which patients have seemingly been “cured” of the illness – or at the very least, achieved long-term remission.

Currently, there are two methods in which scientists are trying to cure HIV. These include gene therapy as well as therapeutic vaccines that improve the body’s own immune response to the virus. There are “kick and kill” methods that aim to remove the virus from its “reservoir” so that it can be destroyed. They have also been working on the opposite, the “block and lock” method. This involves keeping the virus trapped inside cells so that it can no longer replicate or take action inside the body. 

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Others Who Are Cured of HIV

Doctors have cured two people somewhat accidentally of HIV while treating them for leukemia, a type of blood cancer. In this method, the doctors treated the HIV simultaneously with leukemia using a bone marrow transplant using HIV-resistant cells. The patient had been living with HIV for 31 years and was 63 at the time. Now 66, his doctor says he still has no evidence of HIV replication in his body. Two other men have also been cured in the same way while undergoing treatment for leukemia, one in 2007 and another in 2019. (3)

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Elite Controllers

The other way that some seemed to have cured their disease is like this woman from Argentina. They are known as “elite controllers” of HIV whose immune systems seem to eradicate the disease all on their own. One of the women, from Spain, has been disease-free for 15 years. Currently, doctors are unaware of how many elite controllers there are, however, there have been at least two other cases in recent years. This cure is more exciting for HIV patients because it doesn’t require them to also have blood cancer in order to get rid of their HIV. As already mentioned, doctors are now studying these patients to figure out what genetic factor they possess that allows their immune systems to do this. From there, they can hopefully figure out how to apply it to more people.

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Sources

  1. Second Woman Spontaneously Clears HIV: ‘We Think More Are Out There’.” Medscape. Heather Boerner. November 16, 2021.
  2. Woman’s own immune system has possibly cured her of HIV.” NBC News. Benjamin Ryan. November 15, 2021.
  3. 2 more people have been ‘cured’ of HIV — 1 man thanks to cancer treatment, and 1 woman who mysteriously developed natural control over the virus.” Insider. Hilary Brueck. August 1, 2022.
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