Two new cases presented Wednesday at the International AIDS Conference in Montreal have advanced the field of HIV cure science, demonstrating yet again that ridding the body of all copies of viable virus is indeed possible, and that prompting lasting viral remission also might be attainable.
In one case, scientists reported that a 66-year-old American man with HIV has possibly been cured of the virus through a stem cell transplant to treat blood cancer. The approach — which has demonstrated success or apparent success in four other cases — uses stem cells from a donor with a specific rare genetic abnormality that gives rise to immune cells naturally resistant to the virus.
In another case, Spanish researchers determined that a woman who received an immune-boosting regimen in 2006 is in a state of what they characterize as viral remission, meaning she still harbors viable HIV but her immune system has controlled the virus’s replication for over 15 years.
Over four decades, just five people have been cured or possibly cured of HIV. The virus remains so vexingly difficult to cure because shortly after entering the body it infects types of long-lived immune cells that enter a resting, or latent, state.
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