For the first time ever, a woman has been cured of HIV.
A woman dubbed the ‘New York patient’ by scientists at New York-Presbyterian Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City has defeated the virus after receiving a rare, but dangerous, stem-cell treatment.
She is the fourth person to ever be cured of HIV – the previous three are all men – and experts have found two cases of women somehow beating the virus naturally.
The woman was also a cancer patient, and received a treatment meant to combat both diseases at once – but is also so risky that it has been deemed ‘unethical’ to use it on people who do not have a late-stage cancer diagnosis.
In order to perform this treatment, doctors must first find a donor who has a rare mutation that makes them resistant to the virus.
Experts tell NBC that people who have this mutation are usually northern European, and even then only one percent of that population has it.
Doctors then perform a ‘haploidentical cord transplantation’ which uses umbilical cord blood and bone marrow from the donor.
The cord blood helps fight blood based cancers – like the leukemia the woman was suffering from, while the bone marrow provides stem cells to the body.
Because cord blood is usually not as effective for adults as it is children, the stem-cell transplantation can help boost its effectiveness.
‘The role of the adult donor cells is to hasten the early engraftment process and render the transplant easier and safer,’ Dr Koen van Besien, one of the lead doctors evaluating the New York patient, told NBC.