HIV patient fully without drugs thanks to his rare immune response!

A patient fought HIV without any anti-viral drugs and won, a new study reveals. Researchers analyzed 1.5 billion cells from this rare case and found no trace of the virus. Some people may naturally be able to cure themselves of HIV infections. Now it appears that a person may have cleared functional HIV with no outside help. This could be the first known case of a spontaneous cure. Previously, two patients infected with HIV have had levels of the virus drop to undetectable levels after bone marrow transplants. 

Analysis of more than 1.5 billion cells taken from one patient showed no functional HIV copies in any of them. The patient still had some nonfunctional copies of the virus. Researchers are not sure if the intact virus could be hiding in a cell. But the study suggests that some people's immune systems can eliminate the virus. A second patient had just one functional copy of HIV in more than 1 billion blood cells analyzed. That copy of HIV was stuck in what they called "genetic supermax prison". 

That genetic lockup may be key to being able to naturally control the virus. Those two people are part of a care group of people known as elite controllers. Elite controllers can maintain very low levels of HIV without antiretroviral drugs. These people have no symptoms or clear signs of damage from the virus. 99.5% of the world's 35 million people infected with the virus need drugs to maintain the body's control over the virus. Drug-free control of HIV replication is naturally achieved in less than 0.5% of infected individuals. 

Researchers don't know yet how elite controllers destroy the virus for long periods of time. They have never seen the first encounter between HIV and the elite controllers' immune systems. By the time they identify an elite controller, the first fight is already won. But about a quarter of elite controllers have genetic variants in key immune system genes that may help fight the virus. Researchers said that this capability cannot be easily transferred to other people. 

Researchers examined the HIV viruses embedded in DNA from 64 elite controllers and 41 HIV-infected people taking antiretroviral drugs. The elite controllers had maintained undetectable levels of the virus without taking drugs from 1 to 24 years. In the elite controllers, the virus was trapped in gene-poor parts of the human genome which prevent the genes from being turned on.