“Esperanza” Patient Is First ‘Natural Suppressor’ Of HIV After Her Body Clears Her Of The Disease
There has been amazing advancements in treatments for patients that have been diagnosed with HIV in recent years, but apparently one woman from Argentina has done the unimaginable. Well, her immune system has at least.
She has become the world’s first ever known patient whose immune system has managed to cure itself from AIDS. While most people believe that what happened to her is a miracle, scientists also see it as raised hope that maybe someday, the world will no longer need to worry about HIV and it’s adverse and lifelong effects.
Dubbed as the “Esperanza” Patient – due to the tradition of HIV-cured patients being named after their city of residence – she has garnered major publicity all over the medical world.
Dr. Yu was the medical professional that led the comprehensive study into “Esperanza” Patient’s case, making sure that he left nothing unsearched and leaving nothing to chance as he searched for any possible trace of the virus in her system. Thestudy was published in the medical journal Annals of Internal Medicine.
According to the study details, which only released a few details about this special case to the public, shared that the patient had been diagnosed with HIV back in 2013, and has been showing ‘non-existent viral presence’ for at least 8 years. But come 2020, she gave birth to her baby who in turn was remarkably HIV-negative.
Because of this, researchers are working towards figuring out how her immune system managed to neutralize the virus so effectively. This could then lead them to a more efficient and effective basis for basic treatments, and possibly, even a cure in the near future
Before the Esperanza Patient, HIV has been assumed to have been cured in two others known as the “London” and “Berlin” Patients, both of which were treated using stem cell transplants.
For these studies, the ‘transplanted donor cells had a gene defect called CCR5delta32mutant which results in the absence of one of the critical entry gatekeepers that HIV generally needs to infect cells.’
As for “Esperanza” Patient’s case, she has been defined as an ‘elite controller,’ which means that she’s a part of those with “rare odds” as well as with an immune system that managed to naturally suppress the chronic virus. Considering how difficult HIV is to both detect and treat, the virus usually has the capability of infecting and living in a person’s immune cells, and as a result, it ends up living long and remaining quite resilient in the system.
According to a separate paper published in 2020 by Dr. Yu of which “Esperanza” Patient was a participant, when it comes to the elite controllers, they have the ability to specifically target these long-lived cells. What happens is that their “viral reservoir” dries up, eliminating the normally highly effective survival strategy of the virus.
Speaking with NBC News via email while maintaining her anonymity, the “Esperanza” Patient explained, “I enjoy being healthy. I have a healthy family. I don’t have to medicate, and I live as though nothing has happened. This already is a privilege.”
At least 38 million people are living with HIV all over the world, but thankfully the last 20 years has seen a rise in treatments and the ability to survive despite being infected with HIV or AIDS. But the study authors explain that by discovering and studying cases like the Esperanza Patient, the hope is that they can better understand what finding a cure could possibly look like.
On another promising note, the Spanish word esperanza literally means hope, which is why many around the world are optimistic about seeing an HIV-negative world someday soon.
If you’d like to hear more about her story, watch this video below.