Born with HIV to a newly diagnosed positive mother, US doctors say the baby girl seems to have been cured from HIV infection after very early treatment with standard Anti-Viral drugs.
Following the novel use anti-retroviral drugs as early as within 30 hours of life, a Mississippi born baby girl in the US has been declared ‘cured’ of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV by her doctors barely two years after. As reported by the BBC, Dr. Deborah Persaud, a virologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, presented the findings at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Atlanta saying “This is a proof of concept that HIV can be potentially curable in infants.” Of course, further testing would have to be done to show that this result of curing HIV in babies by starting them on Anti-retroviral therapy within hours of birth can be reproduced consistently.
The decision to place this baby on full Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) was made by the doctors because her mother was said to only just discover her HIV status when her daughter was born. So she was not on any form of prophylaxis to prevent vertical transmission. Upon the transfer to this specialist centre, her doctors thought it wise to immediately start her on ARTs due to the high-risk exposure, even before her official test results diagnosed her of HIV. Even though she was on the medications for only 18 months, numerous tests now performed 2 years later showed no traces of the virus.
The current modality for preventing mother to child transmission of HIV (PMTCT) entails the prescribed use of Highly Active Anti-Retroviral drugs (HAART) for the pregnant mother and for the born child with a negative or unknown status, augment with oral Nevirapine for the baby within the first 6 weeks of life. This is important because the current recommendation is to allow breastfeeding. As an additional measure, the World Health Organization just last year, added a new (currently debated) PMTCT plan called Option B + which recommends that all high HIV-positive pregnant mother should now continue on ARTs throughout their lifetime regardless of whether they are pregnant or not (as a measure to protect all subsequent pregnancies).
There is still NO KNOWN CURE for HIV yet but with anti-retroviral treatment, an infected person living with HIV can live a healthy life. Even with this great news, the experts say this kind of ‘cure’ is not expected in older children or adults because unlike in newborns, the HIV infection would have already been fully established with “so-called reservoirs of dormant cells” that typically rapidly causes the re-infect in people that stop their ARTs.
About 300, 000 children are born infected with HIV annually, the bulk of them occur here within Sub-Saharan Africa. According to our National Control Agency for AIDS (NACA), only about 16% of HIV-positive Nigerian women currently have access to ARV for PMTCT.
With such depressing stats, almost any form of tested and scientific (recalling the latest herbal “cure” alert) breakthrough certainly brings good radiance. It is pretty interesting that we may have possibly found the “cure” for HIV without even knowing…