Researchers in the United States have reported that a baby born with HIV has been cured after very early treatment with standard drug therapy. It is the first account of an infant achieving a so-called functional cure.
A baby girl, born in Mississippi with the AIDS virus HIV, has been "functionally cured" after very early treatment, researchers announced on Sunday at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.
"This is a proof of concept that HIV can be potentially curable in infants," said Dr. Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who presented the findings the conference.
A functional cure is a rare event in which a person goes into remission without the need for drugs, because blood tests show no signs that the virus is making copies of itself.
Scientists believe this early use of antiviral treatment likely resulted in the infant's cure, by preventing the virus from forming cells known as viral reservoirs.
The only other person considered cured of the virus - the so-called "Berlin patient", Timothy Ray Brown - underwent a very different treatment that included a bone marrow transplant from a special donor.
The Mississippi baby's case involved the use of a mixture of widely available drugs standardly used to treat HIV infection in newborns.
Hope on the horizon
The mother of the child wasn't diagnosed as HIV positive until she was in labor at the hospital, which meant the baby had not received prenatal care for the infection.
Doctors transferred the baby to the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, where within 30 hours of birth, she was given a mixture a three drugs, a faster and stronger treatment than is usual.
The child responded well through age 18 months, when the mother temporarily stopped treatment for the child, researchers said. When they returned ten months later, tests revealed no virus in the child's blood.
After more sophisticated testing, results uncovered just traces of the virus' genetic material still present, labeling the child as functionally cured.
The child, who is now two and a half years old, has been off medication for about a year.
While more testing needs to be done to see if the treatment has the same effect on other children, the results could change the way high-risk babies are treated, or lead to a possible cure for children with HIV.
hc/jr (Reuters, AP)