A baby girl who was born with HIV has been cured after very early treatment with standard drug therapy, US researchers have said, in a potentially ground-breaking case that could offer insights on how to eradicate HIV infection in its youngest victims.
The child’s story is the first account of an infant achieving a so-called functional cure, a rare event in which a person achieves remission without the need for drugs and standard blood tests show no signs that the virus is making copies of itself.
More testing needs to be done to see if the treatment would have the same effect on other children, but the results could change the way high-risk babies are treated and possibly lead to a cure for children with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
“This is a proof of concept that HIV can be potentially curable in infants,” said Dr Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who presented the findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta.
The child’s story differs from the now famous case of Timothy Ray Brown, the so-called “Berlin patient,” whose HIV infection was completely eradicated through an elaborate treatment for leukemia in 2007 that involved the destruction of his immune system and a stem cell transplant from a donor with a rare genetic mutation that resists HIV infection.
Instead of Brown’s costly treatment, the Mississippi baby’s case involved the use of a cocktail of widely available drugs already used to treat HIV infection in infants.