AIDS Virus - 2nd Person Reported Cured

An infant born in Mississippi with AIDS virus appears to have been cured, with a cocktail of drugs given at birth after it’s mother was diagnosed with HIV while in labor.

The baby girl now 2½ years old, whose identity has not been revealed, has been off medication for about a year and is being claimed to be virus free. Although, sophisticated testing did uncover just traces of the virus' genetic material still lingering the specialists had made this announcement past Sunday, at a major AIDS meeting in Atlanta. Deborah Persaud, a pediatrician and AIDS researcher at Johns Hopkins Children's Center in Baltimore is the lead author of a study reporting the cure.

If really so, it would mark only the world's second reported cure. The first being an adult man Timothy Ray Brown, also known as the Berlin patient. Brown was an HIV-positive American who was living in Germany when he developed leukemia. He had two transplants that not only put his leukemia into remission but replaced his HIV-susceptible immune system with one that could ward off the disease. Bone marrow transplants like the one Brown received aren’t suitable for widespread use: Brown’s procedure ends in death 20 per cent of the time, and finding an appropriate donor would be a long shot in most cases.

Scientists have developed more than 20 antiretroviral therapies that can keep HIV in check, but the drugs have problems. Treatment is toxic and expensive, and only about half of the world’s 34 million people living with HIV can get them. Patients must take the drugs daily for the rest of their lives to keep the virus at bay.

The new case was discovered after the baby girl's mother stopped treatment on her, and doctors realized that the virus was undetectable even without drugs, which HIV patients normally must take for the rest of their lives.

Hannah Gay, a pediatrician and infectious-disease expert, had ordered to give a stronger and faster treatment than is usually given to newborns and it was administered before tests even confirmed the child was infected, starting a three-drug infusion within 30 hours of birth. A few days later, the test came back positive (five different tests had detected the virus in the days and weeks following her birth), and she kept the infant on the treatment-level doses. Moving so quickly may have knocked out HIV in the baby’s blood before it could form what are called “hideouts” in the body, where cells hide and then reinfect after medication is stopped. These reservoirs have been the key stumbling block to a cure because even though AIDS drugs stop HIV from replicating, the virus lurks in the reservoirs, ready to come surging back when treatment is stopped.

If further study confirms that very early treatment can cure HIV-infected newborns, it could spur widespread use of such an aggressive regimen in babies born with HIV, dispite of WHO not approving this approach.

The chance an infected pregnant woman will transmit the virus to her baby during gestation, birth or breast-feeding ranges from 15% to 45%, according to WHO. But treatment with antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy and especially around the time of birth cuts the risk of mother-to-child transmission to below 2%. Still, estimates are that between 300,000 and 400,000 infants are born globally each year with the infection, about 90% of them in resource-poor countries in sub-Saharan Africa.