On March 3rd doctors announced that a baby has been cured of the HIV virus, making her the first child and the second person worldwide to have been completely cured of the virus.
The baby girl was born prematurely in a rural Mississppi hospital with a high risk of exposure to maternal HIV infection. A test within 30 hours of birth confirmed that she was indeed infected and suggested that the infection most likely occurred in uturo.
The baby, under the care of Hannah Gay, (head of infectious disease pediatrics at the University of Mississppi) was then treated aggressively with antiretroviral drugs within the first 31 hours of life, which is rarely done. Gay gave higher-than-usual, “therapeutic” doses of three powerful HIV drugs rather than the “prophylactic” (protective/preventative) doses usually given in these circumstances.Virus levels dramatically decreased and were virtually undetectable by the time the girl was a month old.
Everything was going well, until the hospital suddenly lost contact with the mother as she stopped bringing her daughter for treatments and check ups. “The baby’s mom was having some life changes, that’s about all I can say,” Gay reports. “I saw her at 18 months, and then after that did not see her for several months. And we were unable to locate her for a while.” But with the help of state health authorities, Gay was able to track the mother and child down. The mother reported that she had stopped giving the child antiviral drugs almost 7 months ago. Gay was expecting the blood of the girl to be filled with the HIV, but to her astonishment, the tests found no trace of the infection. This, according to doctors can be seen as a “functional cure” of maternal HIV. The drugs used in this casewere inexpensive and easily obtainable.
While fewer than 130 such children are born each year in the U.S., an estimated 330,000 children around the world get infected with HIV at or around birth every year, most of them in sub-Saharan Africa.
This is an amazing new development In our search for the HIV cure that can change how infected newborns are treated and sharply reduce the number of children living with the virus that causes AIDS.