On Feb. 8, scientists announced a woman of mixed race became the third person to ever be cured of H.I.V. The process included a new transplant method using umbilical cord blood, increasing the chances of curing people of diverse racial backgrounds.
The other two patients who were cured of H.I.V. received adult stem cells in bone marrow transplants. Cord blood is more widely available as the patient does not have to be a close match to the recipient. In registries, a majority of donors are of Caucasian origin so, in allowing a partial match, there is the capability to cure hundreds of Americans with both H.I.V. and cancer each year according to scientists.
The woman also had leukemia and received cord blood to treat the cancer from a partially matched donor. The typical process involves seeking a bone marrow donor of similar race and ethnicity to the patient. In addition, blood was donated from a close relative to temporarily give her body immune defenses during the implantation process.
According to researchers, the racial and sexual orientation of this case marks a major step in the process of developing a cure for H.I.V.
“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,” said Dr. Steven Deeks, an AIDS expert at the University of California, San Francisco.
H.I.V. infection is thought to progress differently in men and women. Women make up over half of the cases in the world but only 11 percent are included in cure trials. For this reason, this case offers inspiration and a new precedent for the field of medicine.
This case has also discovered a less dangerous way to conduct transplants with the half-matched cells from her relative supporting her immune system until the cord blood cells became dominant about six weeks later. More than 14 months later, the patient displays zero signs of H.I.V. in blood tests and does not appear to have detectable antibodies to the virus.
Source: New York Times