A Newborn May Be Cured of HIV, Is the End of AIDS Near?
Researchers say a newborn baby born with HIV has been functionally cured of the disease. Could the end of HIV be near? At a conference held in Atlanta the topic everyone was talking about was of a Mississippi baby who was transmitted HIV from his mother and had been cured of the virus. This is the first case where a newborn was cured of HIV. Previously a man named Timothy Brown in Berlin was rid of HIV through a transplant of bone-marrow cells containing stem cells from a donor who had immune components capable of thwarting HIV.
The baby’s mother was diagnosed with HIV when she arrived to give birth and had not been receiving prenatal care including therapy that can reduce transmission up to 100%. Usually doctors give infected mothers anti-HIV drugs several months in advance to help lower the transfer of HIV.
In cases where mothers are HIV positive, newborns are given two antiretroviral drugs, ARVs, on a just-in-case basis. If the babies test positive the drugs are increased to fight off and if they were negative they stop taking the drugs.
In the case of the Mississippi baby, the mother had not received any prenatal HIV care and the doctor decided to skip the preventive drugs and go directly for the aggressive three-drug regimen within 30 hours of birth to give the baby the best chance of combating HIV. After administering the drugs, levels of the virus began to decrease and soon became undetectable. The baby continued for 18 more months after which the doctors lost contact with the infant’s family and eventually learned that the baby had stopped treatment. When the family returned for a checkup, at the age of two years and six months, it was discovered the child showed no signs of antibodies to HIV.
Researchers are cautious to make any broad assumptions. Experts don’t see this leading to changes in ways of combating the virus in mothers and newborns. Existing therapies are effective at lowering transmission of the virus. None of these methods are foolproof however, and this case asks some intriguing questions about cures for HIV in babies. Further work still needs to be done however.