Johns Hopkins Children's Center virologist Dr. Deborah Persaud, University of Massachusetts Medical School immunologist and professor Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga, and Pediatric HIV specialist Dr. Hannah Gay, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, reported the first “functional” cure of HIV in an infant at the Mar. 3, 2013, Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Atlanta.
The child was born to an HIV-infected mother and received combination antiretroviral treatment beginning 30 hours after birth. Progressively diminishing viral presence in the infant's blood was determined by repeated testing until the virus reached undetectable levels 29 days after birth. The child remained on antivirals until 18 months of age. Treatment was discontinued at 18 months but follow up at ten months after discontinuation of treatment showed no presence of HIV or HIV antibodies in the child’s blood.
The researchers describe this development as the first “functional cure” of HIV in an infant. A functional cure occurs when viral presence is so minimal that it remains undetectable by standard clinical tests, but is discernible by ultrasensitive methods.
The researchers claim the prompt administration of antiviral treatment likely led to this infant's cure by halting the formation of viral reservoirs - dormant cells responsible for reigniting the infection in most HIV patients within weeks of stopping therapy.
The researchers plan investigations of the new treatment regimen to replicate the results in other children.