Last Sunday at the 2013 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta, doctors reported that an infant in Mississippi has been cured of HIV. The baby’s mother was HIV positive, and in hopes of controlling the virus, the baby was treated with high doses of three antiretroviral drugs within 30 hours of birth. Treatment was ongoing for 18 months. Two years later, there is no trace of HIV in the child’s blood. Early intervention with antiretroviral drugs seems to be the key to this “miracle cure.”
In the world of medicine, this is groundbreaking as this child is the first to be “functionally cured” of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Emphasis is being placed on the timing of intervention rather than the particular drug or number of drugs used. Dr. Hannah Gay, a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi who treated the infant and mother, stated that the current hypothesis is that through “early aggressive therapy” they were able to prevent reservoirs or “hiding places” from being seeded with the virus. Doctors will continue to follow the unidentified baby girl’s progress but as of now, she is off of treatments and assessed by doctors as “perfectly healthy.”
In the US, 100 to 200 babies are born infected with HIV every year. Around the world, nearly one thousand babies are born infected with HIV or more than 300,000 a year. As of last Sunday, one has been cured. This is just the start of a lot of work and research that has to be done but without a doubt these findings give great hope in the possibility of a cure for HIV.