For the first time, doctors are reporting that they have cured a child of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
Doctors have new faith that a cure may come from the study of one child born with the virus.
“I’m sort of holding my breath that this child’s virus doesn’t come back in the future,” says Hannah Gay, an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, who treated the child, a 2½-year-old Mississippi girl. “I’m certainly very hopeful that it will produce studies that will show us a way to cure other babies in the future.”
Doctors do not see the methods that saved the little girl as an answer to curing the 34 million people worldwide who suffer from the virus. Her situation was unique.
The mother arrived at the hospital to deliver the child, and was diagnosed with HIV. The baby contracted HIV at birth, says study co-author Katherine Luzuriaga of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
The baby was delivered too quickly for doctors to administer anti-HIV medications before she was born. Because doctors suspected the baby would be infected, they began administering anti-AIDS therapy the day after birth, Luzuriaga says.
The baby’s case was exceptional from the beginning.
It’s rare today for babies to be born with HIV, says Anthony Fauci, a director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, which partly funded the study. Pregnant women infected with the HIV virus are given anti-retroviral medications for the first six weeks of pregnancy.
This regimen has reduced mother-to-child transmission from 25% to 30% — in the days before anti-retroviral therapy — to less than 2% today, Gay says.
In a strange twist, the mother and daughter disappeared when she was about 18 months old. They reappeared 5 months later. Doctors fully expected to find levels of the disease in the child. They found none.
Today, 10 months later, there is no evidence of detectable HIV virus in her system.
“That’s a miracle,” says Carlos del Rio, co-director of the Emory Center for AIDS Research and a board member at HIVMA (the HIV Medicine Association), who wasn’t involved in the study. “This kid could have died from the HIV infection. This outcome is the exception, rather than the rule.”
Del Rio says the child’s cure shouldn’t lead patients or parents to think they can stop medication.
Researchers point out that this single occurrence in Mississippi should not cause parents to believe that a cure for AIDS, and the HIV virus is on the immediate horizon.
They encourage continued medication for HIV infected children.
“It’s only one case,” Fauci notes. “It’s a pretty convincing case. But you always have to be careful not to make too much of one case.”
Columnist-The Guardian Express