In a first finding, researchers describe how a 26 month old infant is now functionally cured of HIV thanks to rapid administration of antiretroviral therapy (ART) that was given within 30 hours of birth.
Scientists from Johns Hopkins Children's Center, the University of Mississippi Medical Center and the University of Massachusetts Medical School presented the finding at the at the 20th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI) in Atlanta today.
According to the researchers, ART given quickly was likely responsible for what they are calling a ‘functional cure’ that could last for life.
Deborah Persaud, M.D., lead author on the report said in a press release, "Prompt antiviral therapy in newborns that begins within days of exposure may help infants clear the [HIV] virus and achieve long-term remission without lifelong treatment by preventing such viral hideouts from forming in the first place.
The infant is considered cured because no HIV can be detected in the blood with standard tests.
A ‘functional cure’ differs from a sterilizing cure in that traces of the infection are minimal versus the HIV being completely eradicated.
So far there has only been one reported case of a ‘sterilizing cure’ that occurred in an HIV positive man given a bone marrow transplant for leukemia. It turns out the bone marrow contained rare genetically mutated cells that make people resistant to HIV.
According to specialists, the phenomenon is extremely rare and may change the ways infants whose mothers are HIV positive are treated around the time of giving birth.
The scientists aren’t sure if this is a rare case that can be replicated. Persaud said the next step is to find that out.
Current treatment involves giving infants preventive combination antiviral treatment for six weeks and then therapeutic doses of the drugs if and when HIV is detected. The researchers say early therapy may instead be the key for curing HIV in infants, but more studies are needed before practice changing guidelines would be instituted. The infant in the report was 'cured' of HIV at 29 days.
March 3-6, 2013
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