In a startling medical development that could see new ways of treating AIDS, a baby born in rural Mississippi has been apparently cured of HIV, according to multiple sources.
The baby that was born two and half years ago appears to have been cured now after being aggressively treated with antiretroviral drugs starting the day after birth, doctors reported Sunday.
If follow-up studies show that this method could be used to treat other babies, this could diametrically change how infected infants are treated and would reduce the number of children living with this deadly virus.
There were estimated 3.4 million children globally living with HIV as of 2011, 91 percent of them in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to the World Health Organization.
If the reports are confirmed, the baby will be the second person being cured of HIV virus. Timothy Ray Brown, who was popularly known as "the Berlin Patient," was reportedly the first person to be cured of HIV after a bone-marrow transplant from a donor who was apparently resistant to the infection by birth.
World Health Organization guidelines as of now have suggested treating infants with HIV with little daily dose of antiretroviral treatment for up to six weeks, the Wall Street Journal has reported. If the baby is still tested positive, more aggressive treatment will begin.
WHO has not recommended using aggressive treatment right after the birth because the effectiveness of this method has not yet been examined. More importantly, it is difficult to conclude with certainty that the baby is HIV-positive so early after birth and over-treatment would only squander the scare medication.
In this case, the infant is believed to have been cured because of the early start of the aggressive antiretroviral treatment. The baby was treated with the drug within 30 hours of birth. The researchers believe that the drug barred the development of so-called viral reservoirs that support the virus. The elimination of the reservoirs would mean that HIV virus would be stopped from replicating after the treatment is stopped.
"This is a proof of concept that HIV can be potentially curable in infants," said Dr. Deborah Persaud, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center and lead author of the report on the baby.
"This is the first well-documented case of functional cure in an HIV positive child and suggests that very early ART may prevent establishment of a latent reservoir and achieve cure in children," said the report which was presented in the 20th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.
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