The first miracle baby to be functionally cured of HIV in the US is now in good company, doctors say.
Born in California last summer to a mother with advanced, untreated AIDS, a nine-month-old girl has been declared HIV-negative after having received antiretroviral drugs immediately following its birth. Traces of the virus have seemingly vanished from the infant’s blood and tissues, a doctor reported. Three years ago, an HIV-positive baby born to an infected mother in Mississippi also received early treatment and appears to be free of the virus to this day.
This recent case in California was revealed at the annual Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston this week.
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“This is a call to action for us to mobilize and be able to learn from these cases,” announced Johns Hopkins University pediatrics specialist Dr Deborah Persaud, who has been involved in both cases.
Doctors are still administering high dose, three-drug-anti-AIDS cocktail to the nine-month-old, so it is too early to tell if child is in remission. However, the three-year-old Mississippi child stopped receiving antiretroviral treatments about two years ago.
Encouraged by the Mississippi case, doctors around the world are racing to duplicate the successful outcome. There might even be eight more similar cases in Canada and South Africa, according to a leading researcher. But experts say that more research needs to be conducted before new standards for treating HIV-positive born babies can be put into action.
“Taking kids off antiretroviral therapy intentionally is not standard of care,” Dr Persaud warned during her presentation at the conference.
“This has to be done in a clinical trial setting, because really the only way we can prove that we’ve accomplished remission in these cases is by taking them off treatment, and that’s not without risks.”
A clinical trial designed to test the effectiveness of this early treatment technique on infants born with HIV is set to begin in the next couple of months, CNN reported.
While the trial will take several years of observing the babies to determine whether the treatment has worked, if it does work, the current procedure for treating HIV-positive born babies would receive a massive revision.
“This could lead to major changes, for two reasons,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, executive director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases told The New York Times.
“Both for the welfare of the child, and because it is a huge proof of concept that you can cure someone if you can treat them early enough.”
An estimated 250,000 babies are born infected with HIV each year across the globe, with the U.S. accounting for fewer than 200 of those cases, The New York Times reported. Researchers estimate that more than 34 million people worldwide are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus, which weakens the body’s immune system and leads to AIDS.