Scientists believe that a woman infected with HIV in 1992 has become the first person ever cured of HIV without a bone marrow transplant and even without the use of medicines.
It is the 66-year-old woman Loreen Willenberg. The woman, who resides in California, is already known to scientists because, for decades, her body has managed to suppress the virus naturally without medical treatments.
This was highlighted within the framework of a study, with so-called “elite controllers”, a group of people corresponding to about 1% of those infected with HIV, capable of keeping the virus under control without antiretroviral drugs.
As part of the research, 1.5 billion Willenberg blood cells were tested, but the scientists found no traces of HIV in her body, even using sophisticated new virus detection technologies.
Additionally, 63 other study participants have succeeded in suppressing HIV in their body in a way that it could not reproduce. The finding suggests that these people may have achieved a “functional cure.”
The research further found that a small group of HIV-infected people, who have used antiretroviral therapy for many years, are possibly capable of similarly suppressing the virus. This would allow them to stop taking the medications.
Other cured patients
So far, only two people in the world have been cured of HIV, Timothy Brown from California and Adam Castillejo from London. Both, however, underwent bone marrow transplants for their cancers, The New York Times detailed.
Although this type of transplant can make the immune system resistant to the virus, it is an extremely risky option for most people with HIV.
In May, researchers from the Federal University of Sao Paulo (Brazil) announced that a combination of antiviral drugs may have cured a 36-year-old man infected with the virus. The Brazilian case, however, still needs more investigation to confirm.