Have we cured HIV? Mississippi baby born with virus now healthy
Scientists urge caution but say findings are 'about as close to a cure as we've seen'
AN AMERICAN baby girl born with HIV appears to have recovered after aggressive early treatment in a groundbreaking discovery that scientists said showed the virus was "potentially curable in infants".
The unnamed child was born in a rural hospital in Mississippi to a mother who tested positive for HIV during her labour. The baby was then transferred to the University of Mississippi Medical Centre in Jackson and given a strong cocktail of three standard anti-HIV drugs at just 30 hours old by her doctor, paediatric HIV specialist Dr Hannah Gay. Gay said that as the child did not receive any prenatal treatment to prevent her developing the virus she required "our best shot”.
The girl is now two and a half and shows no signs of re-infection despite being off medication for a year, in what The Guardian calls an "extraordinary” case. Dr Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore who worked alongside Gay on the case and presented the findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta, said the child's progress was "unheard of”.
However, says ITV's science medical editor Lawrence McGinty, there is reason to be cautious about this "eureka moment”. "It may be that this child still has HIV infection somewhere in the body which isn't being measured by the tests,” he writes. "It could be that there is something special about this child that protects against HIV.”
BBC online health editor Michelle Roberts sounds a note of caution too, writing that "the same treatment would not work in older children and adults with HIV as the virus will have already become too established”. But Dr Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told The Independent the case was "about as close to a cure, if not a cure, as we've seen”.
If the little girl stays healthy it would be the second time in history the virus has been "cured”. Timothy Ray Brown, known as the ‘Berlin patient', recovered from HIV in 2007 after a series of treatments involving the destruction of his immune system and a stem cell transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection. ·