Early drug treatment ‘cures’ baby of HIV

4 Mar 2013

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Standard drug therapy appears to have cured a toddler who was born with HIV, doctors have said, while others pointed out more research needs to be done to determine if the same treatment would be as effective on other patients.

The little girl, who is now two and a half years old, was born in the US state of Mississippi. Her mother had only just tested positive for HIV and therefore doctors knew there was a high probability the baby would also be infected with the virus.

The baby was transferred to another hospital after birth and when she was 30 hours old began to receive three standard HIV-fighting drugs, BBC News Online reported.

Subsequent tests showed levels of the virus deceasing, until it was undetectable 29 days after birth.

Doctors continued to treat the girl for about 18 months. Then, the toddler and her mother disappeared from the medical system for five months. When they resurfaced, doctors tested the girl, who had not been treated during the five months, to see if the virus was present. It was not.

The finding suggests the swift treatment after birth wiped out HIV before it could form hideouts in the body. These so-called reservoirs of dormant cells usually rapidly re-infect anyone who stops medication, said Dr Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, who presented the findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta, Georgia.

Though the girl has not been treated for about a year now, more testing needs to be done to determine if the treatment, given within hours of birth, would work for other babies.

It also remains to be seen if the treatment will provide permanent remission.

Experts also said the same treatment would not work in older children and adults with HIV, as the virus is too established at that stage.

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Tina held senior editorial positions at daily newspapers in Ottawa and Toronto

editorial@siliconrepublic.com