On March 3, AIDS specialists announced that a Mississippi child who was born with HIV appears to be cured from the virus.
The child is two and a half years old and has been off of medication for about a year, scientists stated at the 2013 Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Interactions. According to the Huffington Post, experts believe that this toddler may be the key to finding more information about eliminating HIV in children. “You could call this about as close to a cure, if not a cure, that we’ve seen,” Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health stated.
HIV was first detected in the child when a rapid test was given to the mother while she was in advanced labor. The rural hospital that the mother was at did not have the right type of HIV medicine for the situation, so the infant was brought to Dr. Hannah Gay. Gay, who is a pediatric HIV specialist at the University of Mississippi, gave the baby faster and more powerful treatment than is normally given.
The child was started on a three-drug infusion within 30 hours of birth. Dr. Gay told the Huffington Post that “I just felt like this baby was at a higher than normal risk and deserved our best shot.” According to ABC News, HIV viral loads were undetectable in the child by the time it was a month old.
The baby received treatment until it was eighteen months old. At that point, doctors lost contact with the mother, and the child didn’t receive any more medication.
The family returned to Dr. Gay’s care when it was 23 months old. Initial testing showed shocking results: HIV viral loads were still undetectable, according to ABC News. “My first thought was to panic. I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, I have been treating a child who is not actually infected,” Dr. Gay said. However, more highly sensitive tests showed that the HIV virus was nowhere to be found.
Dr. Rowena Johnston, the director of the American Foundation for AIDS Research, told ABC News that the medications the child received could have been the cause of the cure. “If I had to make an educational guess, the difference was receiving the treatment dose very soon after birth, earlier than standard of care in the U.S.,” she stated. “This could prevent a lifetime of treatment. We want people to understand just how game-changing this may be.”
However, Dr. Fauci said that nobody should cease taking anti-AIDS drugs because of this case. “You have to be careful because this is just a single case, and although the data looked pretty convincing that you got to be careful that this may not be broadly applicable to other situations,” he told ABC News Radio.
Dr. Gay has continued to give the baby a check-up every few months. She told the Associated Press that “I just check for the virus and keep praying that it stays gone.”
The mother’s HIV is under control with medication, and the mother is “quite excited for her child,” according to Dr. Gay.