Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, expressed a guarded reaction to the newest potential HIV cure case.
Fauci said the case of an American woman who received a transplant of stem cells from the blood of an infant’s umbilical cord is “not practical” for treating the nearly 36 million people living with the virus that causes AIDS.
“This is not applicable to the normal, otherwise non-diseased, outside of HIV, person,” Fauci told Conversations on Health Care. “This person happened to have an underlying disease which required a stem cell transplant.”
Fauci said the new case is more of a “proof of concept that one can get the virus out and be suppressed for a long period of time.” The patient, who has not been publicly identified, is a middle-aged, mixed-race woman and the third known HIV cure case.
First diagnosed with HIV in 2013, the woman developed a high-risk acute myeloid leukemia four years later and received stem cell treatment for both diseases. She stopped taking antiretroviral drugs 14 months ago and has had no detectable level of HIV since.
Dr. Yvonne Bryson, an infectious-diseases physician at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, said the outcome provides hope for the use of cord stem cells to achieve HIV remission. UCLA researchers presented the case to the public on Feb. 15.
“It also provides proof that HIV-1 viral ‘reservoirs’ can be cleared sufficiently to afford remission and possibly cure in the setting of resistant target cells,” said Bryson.
Meanwhile, Fauci, chief medical advisor to President Joe Biden, said the current therapies available to people infected with HIV are very effective at lowering the viral load and making it “virtually impossible” to transmit the virus through sexual contact.
“We are always trying to cure HIV where you don’t require either daily or intermittent therapy and there’s a lot of research going on with this,” Fauci said.
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