Science

Child Cured Of HIV Virus

By Hilda Scott , Mar 04, 2013 07:57 AM EST

Scientists announced on Sunday that a Mississippi child born with the virus that causes AIDS appears to have been cured of the disease. Now a toddler two and a half years old, the child has been off AIDS medication for one year.

Thorough test analyses showed that only small remnants of the virus still lingered and the child was given stronger treatment before tests even confirmed that the child was infected. The child was at risk before being born, as the mother's HIV status was diagnosed during labor.

Doctors usually give the baby small doses of HIV medication in those cases, but the correct medication was unavailable in the emergency room. The baby was then sent to another facility where a higher level dose was administered to the child by Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi.

Treatments continued for 18 months and were stopped for several months when the family did not return. Researchers said that when the child returned for treatment, the child's blood tested negative for the virus.

As reported by the Associated Press, Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins Children's Center led the investigation. She declared that the child's disease went into remission and although small traces of the virus were detected, the child was "functionally cured."

Because the baby received HIV treatment in the early stages, physicians believe that the disease did not have a chance to occupy the baby's blood and spread throughout the body.

"I just felt like this baby was at higher-than-normal risk, and deserved our best shot. We can't promise to cure babies who are infected. We can promise to prevent the vast majority of transmissions if the moms are tested during every pregnancy," said Gay.

This case marks the second reported cure of HIV in the world. A San Francisco, Calif. patient named Timothy Rat Brown was the first person to be cured. He underwent a bone marrow transplant from a person who was naturally resistant to the HIV virus. Since the transplant five years ago, Brown has not required medication.

"You could call this about as close to a cure, if not a cure, that we've seen," said Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, to The Associated Press.

"There may be different cures for different populations of HIV-infected people," said Dr. Rowena Johnston of amfAR, the Foundation for AIDS Research. The charity funded Persaud's research team to look into possible pediatric cure cases.

"This will likely inspire the field, make people more optimistic that this is possible," said Dr. Steven Deeks of the University of California, San Francisco.

This case suggests that scientists should look at similar cases in which a child was treated not too long after being born.

(Edited by Lois Heyman)

TAG AIDS, HIV

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