Mississippi baby with HIV 'functionally cured'

March 4, 2013 11:54:26 AM PST
In a possible breakthrough in the fight against HIV, a baby born with the virus is now 2.5-years-old and has no signs of HIV. While that's encouraging, doctors say more tests are needed before it can be called a true "cure."

It's a landmark case that could change HIV treatment. The child, born in Mississippi to an HIV-positive mother who had no prenatal care, was given relatively-high doses of three antiviral drugs just 30 hours after being born.

Pediatric HIV Specialist Dr. Hannah Gay treated the baby. "I drew tests just as they started those drugs and two different types of tests showed me, within the next couple of days as we got results for those, that the baby was already infected," she recalled.

The child remained on the drug regimen for some 15 months. Then, Dr. Gay lost touch with the mother. What happened about a year later got the medical community's attention. "The mom admitted that she had not been giving the medicine for the past several months, and I fully expected the baby's viral load to have gone back up. But when we drew the test, we got back, still, an undetectable viral load," Gay said.

Doctors found no trace of the virus. "My first thought was to panic. I thought oh my goodness, I have been treating a child that's not actually infected," Gay said. After lab work was checked and double-checked, doctors from Boston and Baltimore were brought in to begin research. Now, at 2.5-years-old, doctors say the child is "functionally cured" and no longer requires any medications.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins announced Sunday that early intervention was key to this outcome. "We think we can build upon that platform. What this case provided us is that we can use the currently FDA-approved drugs for treating infection in infants to really begin to replicate this finding," Dr. Deborah Persaud said.

This is not the first documented case curing HIV. In 2007, Timothy Brown was cured. He's also known as "The Berlin Patient." Brown was HIV-positive and battling leukemia. He was cured of both after he received a bone marrow transplant. If confirmed, the baby in Mississippi would be the first HIV patient cured by medication alone.


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