In only the second reported case in the world, a subject has been cured of HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS. An infant in Mississippi was born with HIV contracted from the mother, and was put on an especially vigorous regime of three-drug infusions. At two-and-a-half years old now, it appears the child is without an replicating HIV viruses.
The difference made in this child’s treatment was that it was giving stronger doses than normal, and this just within 30 hours of birth.
“I just felt like this baby was at higher-than-normal risk, and deserved our best shot,” said Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi.
The HIV works its way into reservoirs in the body, pockets where it can hide from the medicine, in a manner of speaking, and then reinfect the patient after medical treatment has been stopped. This child had been vigorously treated before the virus could entrench itself in reservoirs. Though the child still has some traces of the virus left, it appears none of it is self-replicating, and so the child is being called “functionally cured.”
Dr. Persaud of Johns Hopkins Children Center thinks aggressive treatment might work on other children at high-risk. “Maybe we’ll be able to block this reservoir seeding,” said Persaud.
Not many children are born with HIV in their system in the U.S. as compared to Africa, where 300,000 children were born infected in 2011. Some better forms of treatment are greatly needed in such places.
“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 ever pregnancy,” said Gay.
The only other person cured of HIV was a man who received a bone marrow transfer from a unique individual who was naturally resistant to the virus.
The mother of the Mississippi toddler, meanwhile, is “quite excited for her child.”