Johns Hopkins’ scientists announced that a baby born with the virus that causes AIDS, HIV, appears to be cured. The child, who is now 2 1/2 years old, has no trace indication of HIV and has been clear of any sign of infection for over one year.
If the child’s health maintains, it will become only the second person in human history who has been cured from the disease.
Researchers stress and reiterate that there is no guarantee that the baby will remain healthy. The most sophisticated means of detecting viral load show that the virus is completely removed from the child at this time, but trace elements of the virus’ genetic material — not composite — could still be present.
The process of ‘curing’ the baby started with a pediatric HIV specialist from the University of Mississippi.
When the baby was born, she decided that the child had a higher-than-normal chance of being born with HIV. “I just felt like this baby was at higher-than normal risk, and deserved our best shot”, reported Dr. Hannah Gay.
Within the first 30-days of the baby’s life, Gay decided that the baby would receive three times the rate of treatment and that her team would not wait to confirm that the baby was HIV positive.
This action prevented the virus from taking its normal ‘hideout’ locations within the body. While many people take antiviral medications to help prevent the spread of HIV within the body, once the medication is stopped ‘reservoirs’ of the virus explode and cause a full blown infection. The viral load can reach such deadly amounts that AIDS symptoms appear in most patients over time.
With this child, however, any indication of the reservoir phenomenon has not been detected. Dr. Deborah Persaud of Johns Hopkins Children’s Center lead an investigation which deemed the baby has been ‘functionally cured’.
Persaud’s thought into applied research and experimentation involves treating newbown at-risk babies immediately and with higher doses of medication, perhaps destroying the HIV virus’ ability to ‘hideout’ in the body in reservoirs, waiting to explode in viral load at random.
Researchers are most excited because this case gives great sign of how to battle AIDS in children, which could greatly benefit regions of Africa were scores of newborns are plagued by the virus from day one of their lives. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health stated, “You could call this about as close to a care, if not a care, that we’ve seen.”
Researchers warn that the best treatment for HIV is still prevention, education and informing. Using protective measures during intercourse and not sharing needles is the best deterrent for HIV. People who are on antiviral medications should not stop taking them in light of this case. Expectant mothers who believe they are at risk for HIV should immediately tell their physicians. Mothers who have HIV have a 60% chance of passing it along to their newborns.
There are people who are naturally resistant to HIV infections. The only other person to be cured of HIV is a man named Timothy Ray Brown, from San Francisco. Brown has been fives years now without a HIV treatment, after suffering a high viral load. He received a very risky bone marrow transplant from a donor who had a naturally resistant immunity to HIV. After the transplant, Brown himself was cured.