Yesterday, Dr. Deborah Pesaud announced that a baby in the United States has been successfully cured of an HIV infection for the first time ever.
According to Reuters, the child, a girl from Mississippi, was delivered HIV positive in July 2010. Within 30 hours of her delivery she received “aggressive HIV therapy” and continued with the treatment for 18 months. Dr. Pesaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, revealed her findings during the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta on Sunday.
Fellow conference attendee Dr. Steven Deeks, an HIV/AIDS researcher at the University of California at San Francisco felt enthusiastic. "This could have a profound effect on how we approach babies born to HIV-infected moms," he said. "From a clinical perspective, this means that if you can get an infected baby on to antiretroviral drugs immediately after delivery, it's going to be possible to prevent or reverse the infection - essentially cure the baby,"
Other researchers at the conference hailed the medical advance. Dr. Anthony Fauci director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases hoped the findings could lessen the "terrible burden of HIV infection throughout the world.” Between 100 and 200 HIV positive babies are born in the U.S. each year, but in developing countries as many as 1,000 are born with the infection each day.
Executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) Micheal Sidibé harbored mixed feelings. He said that while Dr. Pesaud's announcement “gives us great hope that a cure for HIV in children is possible... The real question is will this be broadly applicable to other infants?”
Dr. Fauci highlighted the need for more innovation in the diagnostic field to ensure that uninfected infants were not subjected to drug treatment. "The approach of treating really, really early needs to be pursued," Fauci said. "When we get better diagnostics where we can tell within the first day or so whether the baby is infected, an approach like this looks like it might be a reasonable thing to pursue with the appropriate clinical trials." Currently, the process for diagnosing HIV can take up to six weeks.
In the case of the cured girl, a pediatric HIV specialist, Dr. Hannah Gay at the University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, decided to treat the baby before positive diagnosis because of great risk of the mother passing on the infection. If the results had returned negative, treatment would have stopped.
Typically, babies suspected of infection are given lower doses of the drugs until infection is confirmed via test result. Fauci stressed that protocols for infected infants should not yet change. "It's a single case,” he said. “We've got to be careful about that."