Loreen Willenberg (66 from California) may be the first person to have been cured of HIV without stem cell transplants, it has been reported. Loreen, who has been living with HIV since 1992, claims to have never taken medication to treat the virus.
Timothy Ray Brown (Berlin) and Adam Castillejo (London) are also on the list of those who have been cured of HIV, however both underwent complicated bone marrow transplants. Others with HIV are usually treated with drugs known as antiretroviral therapy which prevent the viral particles from reproducing in the body, although this does not cure the patient entirely and the virus will reactivate if they stop taking medication.
Researchers at The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection are working on the premise that Loreen’s body has been fighting the infection naturally as studies of her blood cells demonstrated that her immune system had rendered whatever traces of the virus were left in her body incapable of reproducing. She has been referred to as an ‘elite controller’ – a rare patient who’s immune system is able to repress the infection naturally.
Dr Sharon Lewis, who worked on the study of Loreen’s blood cells, told the New York Times Loreen could be ‘added to the list of cures for HIV’ although this is a ‘very different path’ to regular treatments.