Did Early Drug Treatment Cure Baby Born with HIV?

hiv aidsThe case of a baby born with HIV said to have been cured of the infection because of early treatment has made headlines around the world. But the medical world has urged caution and warned patients with HIV not to stop taking the essential anti-retroviral therapy essential to suppressing the infection.

AIDS researchers say further information and longer-term studies are required before they can definitively say that the baby has indeed been cured.

The details of the case were revealed at an AIDS conference by researchers from the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Most mothers with HIV are treated during their pregnancy with anti-retroviral drugs and this prevents their unborn child becoming infected with the virus. However, this baby was born to a mother who had not yet been diagnosed or treated for HIV and the tot began a rigorous drug regimen within 30 hours of her birth.

It was this early intervention that the researchers believe stopped the baby developing HIV. Adults infected with HIV are usually diagnosed too late to prevent cells known as reservoirs forming – these cells carry the DNA of the virus. However, the Massachusetts team believe the quick action in treating the newborn prevented the reservoirs from forming. The baby was treated for the first 18 months of her life before the treatment stopped. Ten months on, there are only the lowest levels of HIV in her system.

The next step, says AIDS researchers, is for further research that would reveal if such speedy treatment could be as effective for every child born with HIV. The baby herself will be monitored closely and if HIV is detected in her blood, her treatment with anti-retroviral therapies will begin again immediately.

In the US, there are thousands of children and teenagers who have been receiving treatment for HIV since birth and whose reservoir levels for the virus’s DNA are known to be low. Future research could centre on clinical trials in which treatment for those children is stopped and their reservoir levels monitored closely for any signs of the virus levels rising.

Until more research is done into a potential cure for HIV in infants, the virus remains a threat.

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