A 9-month-old baby who was born in a Los Angeles suburban hospital with HIV may have been cured by administering anti-viral drugs just four hours after her birth. A Reuters news story reports that the child is the second such case in the United States. A child in Mississippi was also confirmed to be free of the virus that causes AIDS after similar early treatments over 3 years ago.
The news is promising, says Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, executive director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“This could lead to major changes, for two reasons,” he told the New York Times. “Both for the welfare of the child, and because it is a huge proof of concept that you can cure someone if you can treat them early enough.”
More research will need to be done in light of the new developments, says Dr. Deborah Persaud, a pediatrics specialist with the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, who is heading up the treatment of the child in California.
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"Really the only way we can prove that we have accomplished remission in these kids is by taking them off treatment and that's not without risk," she said. "This is a call to action for us to mobilize and be able to learn from these cases.”
The New York Times article reports that news of the California baby is the third piece of good news in two days regarding HIV treatment. On Tuesday, scientists reported that injections of potent AIDS drugs appeared to have fended off infection in monkeys, and on Wednesday, researchers announced a breakthrough “gene-editing” procedure that may help immune system cells fight the virus.
Dr. Yvonne Bryson, an infectious disease specialist at Mattel Children's Hospital in California, has also been involved in the treatment of the child in Los Angeles, according to USA Today. In an effort to keep momentum going for early HIV treatment, she has become a leader of a new federally funded study, just getting underway, to test 60 babies in the United States with the new techniques. She and Persaud are both hopeful that the treatments will keep the children HIV-free.
"These kids obviously will be followed very, very closely" for signs of the virus, Persaud said.