Baby cured of HIV 'not a fluke,' US researchers say
By Kerry Sheridan, AFPWASHINGTON--A little girl who was treated for HIV shortly after birth still shows no sign of infection at age three, suggesting her apparent cure was not a fluke, U.S. researchers said Wednesday.
October 25, 2013, 12:27 am TWN
The story of the first child known to have been cured of HIV through early treatment with powerful doses of antiretroviral drugs — what researchers call “sustained remission” rather than a cure — was initially announced in March when she was two and a half.
A handful of HIV-infected adults around the world have been described in medical literature as newly free of the disease, most famously Timothy Brown, also known as “the Berlin patient,” who was given a bone marrow transplant for leukemia that wiped out his HIV as well.
But no easy method has emerged to eradicate the three-decade-old human immunodeficiency virus that infects 34 million people globally and is responsible for 1.8 million deaths each year.
The girl's updated case report in the New England Journal of Medicine also sought to answer questions raised by outside experts over whether she was ever really infected, by describing DNA and RNA tests that were positive for HIV just over a day after birth.
The child was given antiretroviral drugs until the age of 18 months and, after a year and half without treatment, no sign of the disease has returned, the article said.
“Our findings suggest that this child's remission is not a mere fluke but the likely result of aggressive and very early therapy that may have prevented the virus from taking a hold in the child's immune cells,” said lead author Deborah Persaud, a virologist and pediatric HIV expert at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.
The child's mother gave birth to her prematurely, about a month early, and had not received any prenatal care. She was unaware that she was HIV positive until she was tested at the Mississippi hospital where she delivered.
The newborn also tested positive for HIV, and the high level found in her blood suggested that she had become infected with human immunodeficiency virus while in the womb, researchers said.
She also showed signs of HIV in blood tests at 19 days of age, data that “support the authors' perspective that the infant was truly infected,” said an accompanying editorial by Scott Hammer, a leading HIV scientists at Columbia University Medical Center.