HIV Cure: Mom's Natural Immunities Rid Her Body of the Virus Without Treatments, Experts Claim

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A mother in her '30s has become the second documented patient in the world to rely on her natural immunities as an HIV cure. Researchers have confirmed that she has been free of the virus without undergoing HIV treatments.

Dubbed the "Esperanza patient," which means hope, the mom from Argentina told NBC News that she was diagnosed with HIV in 2013. However, she has been living her life "as though nothing has happened" and has not endured nor experienced the challenges and the stigma tied to the disease. 

The young mom, whose identity has been protected, believes that she generally comes from a healthy family so her body coped with the virus. She was exposed to HIV from a boyfriend who died of AIDS.

She is a part of a group of people studied under the HIV research program of the Ragon Institute, which comprises experts from Harvard University, Massachusetts General Hospital and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The said group of HIV patients are described as "elite controllers" who apparently have a remarkable immune system that helps keep the symptoms of HIV at bay even with no antiretroviral therapy (ART), the most common HIV treatment.

For many patients, ART has been instrumental in preventing the virus from becoming contagious after a series of treatments. However, the virus could emerge again if the patient's body becomes resistant to the drugs or they stop taking the medication since HIV integrates into the body's DNA cells. 

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The Sterilizing Cure

In a paper published with the Annals of Internal Medicine, the experts said the woman's health progression proved that natural immunity may be possible to deliver a sterilizing cure from HIV. According to Dr. Xu Yu, who works as a viral immunologist with the Ragon Institute, this latest finding has demonstrated the "miracle of the human immune system."  

To confirm their findings, the HIV patient underwent a battery of tests and analyses involving "massive numbers of cells from blood and tissues" since 2019. They could no longer find the virus in her DNA, RNA, or her system in the latest round of tests. However, the study authors acknowledged that a sterilizing cure could be rare even if it was possible.

What's crucial is that the research has highlighted the power of the immune system. So, if there are a couple of people who could use their natural defenses as an HIV cure then only time will tell of the body could also naturally eliminate other kinds of virus.

First Patient with Natural HIV Cure

Meanwhile, Loren Willenberg, a 66-year-old elite controller from California, is regarded as the first person to beat HIV naturally. After some tests, experts confirmed that the viral load in her DNA cells was severely damaged thus it did not develop into new viruses.

The experts said that Willenberg's immune system was able to stimulate the right response and selectively picked off the HIV-infected DNA cells to leave just the dead seeds that could no longer transmit any infection. Curiously, this is the same effect experienced by those under ART only Willenberg also did not need any treatment.

The next step is for the researchers to figure out what mechanisms are involved with this natural HIV cure so that medical experts could repeat and recreate this therapeutically for other HIV patients.  Rowena Johnston of The Foundation for AIDS Research said that they are eager to learn more about these elite controllers.

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