Baby With HIV Cured: How Did Doctors Cure AIDS Virus in the Mississippi Child?
Baby with HIV Cured
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A baby with HIV was cured for the first time, reported researchers speaking at a scientific conference in Atlanta, Ga. It seems a 2-year-old Missisippi girl has been declared HIV-negative after receiving antiretroviral therapy from within the first few hours of her birth, until just a few months ago.
This case is an isolated one, and doctors and researchers are still not entirely certain how or why the child with HIV was cured.
"It's only one case ... [but] it's a pretty convincing case," said Anthony Fauci, a director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.
Mississippi Child Cured of HIV: How Did Doctors Do It?
So who is this mysterious baby with HIV whom researchers are claiming was cured and what treatment was the child receiving for the HIV infection?
It seem the anonymous 2 ½-year-old Mississippi girl first contracted the virus at birth. The mother, upon arriving at the hospital in labor, tested positive for the HIV virus herself. She received no prenatal care or HIV therapy throughout her pregnancy, doctors were fairly certain the child would be born with the HIV infection as well.
As a result, doctors who are claiming the child with HIV is now cured, began giving the infected child anti-HIV therapy just 30 hours after its birth.
The child continued to receive therapy for several months, but soon appointments were missed. At around 18 months the mother and infant with HIV seemed to have disappeared altogether. Five months after getting social services involved to help locate them, doctors ordered the mother and baby with HIV, who was now a toddler, once again returned to the hospital. During the course of the five months in which they had been absent, no medication was taken for the infection, however, doctors were astounded to find the baby they had treated for HIV, now appeared to be cured, with no trace of the virus present any longer.
Though many portions of this case are certainly exceptional, the proof still remains that a child with HIV was cured for the first time. This would mark only about the third person to ever have been completely cured of the infectious disease.
"It's a hypothesis-generating case," said Anthony S. Fauci. "It will give us some food for thought about studies that need to be done to see if this is a real phenomenon."
How Was the HIV Cure Discovered?
So why you may be wondering hasn't a cure like this for HIV been tried before? Well, though the answer is not clear, it seems, the "triple therapy" treatment the Mississippi child with HIV received was well outside of the norm. It is difficult to know right after birth if an infant will be infected HIV as antibodies from an HIV-infected mother can make their way into a baby's circulation, giving a false positive when tested. It is only after about 6 weeks doctors can be certain if the child is in fact infected. However, due to the child's high risk of infection the triple therapy was begun just a day after the child's birth, which seems to have led to the child being cured.
Much work still remains in dissecting what might have caused the remission of the virus in the toddler; however, if further research shows that this kind of aggressive early treatment works in other babies, it will likely become a standard recommendation for all those unborn children suspected of being carriers of the virus.
According to the United Nations, over 300,000 babies from around the world are born each year with the HIV virus. In 2011 alone, a reported 330,000 babies were reportedly tested positive for the virus and world wide an estimated three million children suffer with the disease.
Still, great strides have been made in prenatal care. According to Fauci, far fewer babes are born with the HIV virus than were in the past.
This is due to the fact that doctors now generally treat HIV-positive pregnant women with anti-retroviral medications while also beginning preventive treatment in babies for a few weeks after their birth. This kind of standard treatment has done a good job of reducing the overall incidence of babies being born with HIV transmitted from their mothers. The course of action has been so successful, the percentage of mother-to-child transmission has reduced from 25 to 30 percent in the early days, to less than 2 percent now.
However, many people are hoping for a treatment to eradicate the life-threatening disease in infants.
Though the case of the Mississippi girl with HIV being cured is certainly promising, still there are those who find themselves fearful to be too hopeful.
"I'm sort of holding my breath that this child's virus doesn't come back in the future," said Hannah Gay of the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Gay is an associate professor of pediatrics and one of the doctors who worked with the child now cured of HIV.
"I'm certainly very hopeful that it will produce studies that will show us a way to cure other babies in the future."
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