A baby born to an HIV-positive mother in Mississippi has no signs of the potentially deadly virus after physicians treated the newborn with a heavier than usual dose of antiretroviral drugs.
The child's case was presented to researchers at an AIDS conference
on Sunday, raising the possibility that immediate treatment in larger than usual doses might eliminate the infection in newborns.
"What we have identified is what we think is the first well-documented case of a functional cure in a neonatal child," Dr. Deborah Persaud of the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center, the virologist who led the study, told NBC News
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"This has major implications for how we begin to think about treating children," Persaud says. "Perhaps we can spare them a lifetime of treatment."
Persaud warned however that the case she presented represents only one instance of providing a cure, adding "We need to figure out if this can be reproduced or replicated in other infants."
In this case, the mother was not aware that she had contracted the human immunodeficiency virus that causes AIDS until immediately before giving birth.
She and her unborn child were subsequently given a standard dose of HIV drugs prior to delivery.
Within 30 hours of being born, the baby was retested by the hospital which concluded there was clear evidence of HIV infection, reported NBC News.
Having been born prematurely the baby remained in the hospital where she received a cocktail of three drugs at a dosage usually reserved for more advanced cases. The higher than usual dose pushed her virus down to what’s called undetectable levels, at which point it can no longer be found in the blood and cannot spread and cause damage to the immune system.
The baby and her mother continued to receive regular care at the University of Mississippi Medical Center 15 months after delivery, until the child and her mother stopped showing up. After having not received treatments for 18 months, the child and her mother re-emerged at the hospital, where testing showed the virus had not returned.
The child, who lives in rural Mississippi and is now two and a half years old, is reportedly healthy, requiring no further medication for HIV. According the baby's doctors the infant is likely to have a normal life expectancy and extremely unlikely to be infectious to others reports Britain's The Guardian.
HIV-positive mothers who are not treated with antiretroviral drugs have a 25 percent chance of transmitting HIV to their child, either during pregnancy, labor or delivery, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
If, however, the HIV-positive mother receives such medical treatment during pregnancy, has a Caesarian section, and avoids breastfeeding, her chances of transmitting the potentially fatal virus are significantly reduced to less than two percent reports the government agency.
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About 34 million people globally are infected with HIV, so far 25 million have died from complications associated with it.
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