Doctors announced yesterday that a baby born with HIV has been cured of the virus for the first time. This treatment could reduce the number of children living with the virus that causes AIDS. In 2011, 330,000 babies were born with HIV and there are currently more than 3 million children living with HIV across the world.
The baby, whose name and identity has been withheld, was born prematurely in 2010 in rural Mississippi to a mother who was unknowingly living with the virus. Transmission of the virus from mother to child is rare, about 200 cases a year; but because she hadn’t received any prenatal treatment, and didn’t know she was infected with HIV, she did not receive any HIV prevention drugs during her pregnancy. 30 hours after the child was born he/she was aggressively treated with antiretroviral drugs, an unusual course of action for newborns.
In the first month of this child’s life, five tests were done that proved the baby was indeed infected with HIV. Then at 18 months, the mother stopped coming to the hospital and stopped giving the baby medicine. Five months later, when the mother returned to doctors, surprisingly, all tests came back negative. Now, at 2 ½ years old, all tests still come back negative. Doctors believe there may be small strands of HIV lingering in the body but the child has no functioning signs of the virus. If the treatment and results can be duplicated in other infants, it will be recommended globally. Doctors don’t believe the findings will work in adults. Some hypothesize that the cure worked for this child because the virus was treated before it had time to establish a hidden reservoir in the baby’s system. Adults who currently live with the virus can’t be treated in the same manner because these reservoirs are out of reach to existing drugs and when drug therapy stops, the virus reemerges.
Whether the treatment proves successful in other cases, this protocol could be used for quickly testing and treating infants believed to have the virus at birth.