This is fantastic: In what is believed to be a first of its kind, an infant in Mississippi who was born HIV-positive has been reportedly "cured" after very early and aggressive antiretroviral drug therapy.
This "startling development" in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission could impact "how infected newborns are treated and sharply reduce" the number of HIV-positive children, reports the New York Times.
The mother arrived at a rural hospital in the fall of 2010 already in labor and gave birth prematurely. She had not seen a doctor during the pregnancy and did not know she had H.I.V. When a test showed the mother might be infected, the hospital transferred the baby to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where it arrived at about 30 hours old. ...
Virus levels rapidly declined with treatment and were undetectable by the time the baby was a month old. That remained the case until the baby was 18 months old, after which the mother stopped coming to the hospital and stopped giving the drugs. When the mother and child returned five months later, [Dr. Hannah B. Gay] expected to see high viral loads in the baby. But the tests were negative. Suspecting a laboratory error, she ordered more tests. "To my greater surprise, all of these came back negative,” Dr. Gay said.
The protocol will be studied in detail. If this this works in other babies, "it will almost certainly be recommended globally" by the World Health Organization.
There is no vaccine or cure for HIV/AIDS. This is only the world's second verified "functional cure" of HIV—a very "rare event in which a person achieves remission without the need for drugs," explains Reuters.
The child's story is different from the now famous case of Timothy Ray Brown, the so-called "Berlin patient," whose HIV infection was completely eradicated through an elaborate treatment for leukemia in 2007 that involved the destruction of his immune system and a stem cell transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection. Instead of Brown's costly treatment, however, the case of the Mississippi baby, who was not identified, involved the use of a cocktail of widely available drugs already used to treat HIV infection in infants.
More on the "Berlin Patient" in my 2011 HIV/AIDS Year in Review for TheBody.com ...
Newborns born HIV-positive via MTCT are extremely rare in the United States but common across the global south. There are usually less than 200 HIV-positive infants born annually in the States ... but 330,000 born annually across the global.