Multiracial Woman ‘Possibly Cured’ of HIV

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March 17, 2023 – The middle-aged woman who had HIV but has been in remission after receiving an umbilical cord stem cell transplant more than five years ago for her leukemia is now considered “possibly cured.” She is known as “the New York patient,” and her case is notable because she identifies as mixed race.

The woman is one of a handful of people considered cured or in long-term remission from HIV after receiving a stem cell transplant. She got the transplant in 2017 and later halted antiretroviral therapy, which most HIV patients need to take for life due to the virus’ effect on the immune system. Stem cells that have a rare mutation known to be resistant to HIV are found in only 1% of the population of white people and are even more rare among people of other races and ethnicities.

“The HIV epidemic is racially diverse, and it’s exceedingly rare for persons of color or diverse race to find a sufficiently matched, unrelated adult donor,” said UCLA researcher Yvonne Bryson, MD, in a statement. “Using cord blood cells broadens the opportunities for people of diverse ancestry who are living with HIV and require a transplant for other diseases to attain cures.”

In addition to cord cells, the New York patient’s transplant included some cells from a relative to help increase the potential for a successful transplant. People with HIV who do not have another possibly fatal health problem, such as cancer, are not likely to receive a stem cell transplant treatment that might cure them since the risks of the treatment could be fatal. 

The updated report on the New York patient’s progress following treatment was published Thursday in the journal Cell. At a news conference, Bryson said the patient had experienced “a possible cure” and that researchers wanted a longer follow-up period before making a more definitive statement, according to LiveScience.