A group of physicians and medical researchers announced yesterday what appears to be the first functional cure of an infant born with HIV — marking what may be a breakthrough development in how such cases are treated.Sunday’s announcement came in advance of a presentation of the group’s as yet unpublished findings, scheduled for today at the 20th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta Georgia.
The unidentified child, born in rural Mississippi in 2010 and now 2 1/2 years old, was infected through her mother, who had not received prenatal care and was unaware of her own HIV positive status until tested at a hospital during premature labor.
Those results led the hospital to transfer the newborn to the University of Mississippi Medical Center, where HIV tests of the 30-hour-old infant were conducted.
But before the child’s positive results were known, pediatrician Dr. Hannah B. Gay began administering an atypically aggressive, 3-drug anti-retroviral regimen.
The infant responded so well that after a month, the virus was no longer detectable, and after 18 months, the mother stopped bringing the child in for treatment.
Yet, when they returned five months later, doctors were surprised to find no signs of the virus.
Whether similar success can be replicated in other cases of newborn HIV remains to be seen, but it does appear that the immune systems of infants are different enough from those of adults that different approaches warrant consideration.