[QODLink]
Americas

US scientists say baby born with HIV cured

New findings could be especially critical for AIDS-plagued African countries where many babies are born with virus.
Last Modified: 04 Mar 2013 05:36

A baby girl who was born with HIV has been cured after very early treatment with standard drug therapy, US researchers have said, in a potentially groundbreaking case that could help eradicate HIV infection in its youngest victims.

Specialists made the announcement on Sunday at a major AIDS meeting in the US city of Atlanta.

"This is a proof of concept that HIV can be potentially curable in infants," said Dr. Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who presented the findings.

The baby girl was born in a rural hospital in the state of Mississippi and her mother had just tested positive for HIV infection.

A team of doctors at the University of Mississippi Medical Centre in Jackson then put the infant on a cocktail of three standard HIV-fighting drugs when she was just 30 hours old.

That fast action apparently knocked out the HIV in the baby's blood before it could form reservoirs in the body.

The new findings could be especially critical for AIDS-plagued African countries where many babies are born with the virus, researchers said.

"You could call this about as close to a cure, if not a cure, that we've seen,'' Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health, who is familiar with the findings, told The Associated Press.

'Berlin patient'

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.

Instead of Brown's costly treatment, the Mississippi baby's case involved the use of a cocktail of widely available drugs already used to treat HIV infection in infants.

More testing needs to be done to see if the treatment would have the same effect on other children, but the results could change the way high-risk babies are treated and possibly lead to a cure for children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Persaud's team is now planning a study to try to prove that, with more aggressive treatment of other high-risk babies.

No one should stop anti-AIDS drugs as a result of this case, Fauci cautioned. But "it opens up a lot of doors'' to research if other children can be helped, he said. "It makes perfect sense what happened.''

Better than treatment is to prevent babies from being born with HIV in the first place.

About 300,000 children were born with HIV in 2011, mostly in poor countries where only about 60 percent of infected pregnant women get treatment that can keep them from passing the virus to their babies.

In the US, such births are very rare because HIV testing and treatment long have been part of prenatal care.

Dr. Rowena Johnston, vice president and director of research for the Foundation for AIDS Research, which helped fund the study, said the fact that the cure was achieved by antiretroviral therapy alone makes it "imperative that we learn more about a newborn's immune system, how it differs from an adult's and what factors made it possible for the child to be cured."

506

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
At least 25 tax collectors have been killed since 2012 in Mogadishu, a city awash in weapons and abject poverty.
Tokyo government claims its homeless population has hit a record low, but analysts - and the homeless - beg to differ.
3D printers can cheaply construct homes and could soon be deployed to help victims of catastrophe rebuild their lives.
Lack of child protection laws means abandoned and orphaned kids rely heavily on the care of strangers.
Featured
Booming global trade in 50-million-year-old amber stones is lucrative, controversial, and extremely dangerous.
Legendary Native-American High Bird was trained in ancient warrior traditions, which he employed in World War II.
Hounded opposition figure says he's hoping for the best at sodomy appeal but prepared to return to prison.
Fears of rising Islamophobia and racial profiling after two soldiers killed in separate incidents.
Group's culture of summary justice is back in Northern Ireland's spotlight after new sexual assault accusations.