Child ‘cured’ of HIV

This image provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine shows Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins' Children's Center in Baltimore. A baby, born with the AIDS virus, appears to have been cured scientists announced Sunday, March 3, 2013, describing the case of a child from Mississippi, who's now 2½ and has been off medication for about a year with no signs of infection. If the child remains free of HIV, it would mark only the world's second known cure. Specialists say the finding offers exciting clues for how to eliminate HIV infection in children. "Maybe we'll be able to block this reservoir seeding," Persaud said. (AP Photo/Johns Hopkins Medicine)
Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins’ Children’s Center in Baltimore. A baby born with the AIDS virus appears to have been cured, scientists announced Sunday, March 3, 2013. (AP Photo)

HIV is no longer detectable in a two-year-old born with the virus, according to a study presented on March 3.

At the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta, Deborah Persaud, associate professor of infectious diseases at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center in Baltimore, and Katherine Luzuriaga, professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, said the child born with HIV underwent extreme treatment.

“Because of the high risk of exposure to HIV, the infant was started at 30 hours of age on liquid antiretroviral treatment consisting of a combination of three anti-HIV drugs: zidovudine, lamivudine, and nevirapine. The newborn’s HIV infection was confirmed through two blood samples obtained on the second day of life and analyzed through highly sensitive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing. PCR tests conducted on separate occasions that indicate the presence of HIV in an exposed infant are considered to have confirmed the diagnosis of infection,” the report said.

Additional tests performed on the infant’s blood during the first three weeks of life still indicated HIV infection. About a week later, however, the baby’s viral load had fallen to fewer than 50 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood.

The child continued treatment until 18 months of age (January 2012). The infant was seen again by medical professionals in the fall of 2012. According to the study, blood samples showed undetectable HIV levels and no HIV-specific antibodies.

The child currently continues to live without antiretroviral therapy and has no identifiable levels of HIV in the body. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, is overseeing the child’s care. The case will continue to be followed by researchers.

“This case suggests that providing antiretroviral therapy within the very first few days of life to infants infected with HIV through their mothers via pregnancy or delivery may prevent HIV from establishing a reservoir, or hiding place, in their bodies and, therefore, achieve a cure for those children,” Dr. Persaud said.

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